National leader Christopher Luxon says the three potential coalition partners are "pretty close" to reaching a deal to form a new Government.
Speaking to media before entering the Cordis Hotel in Auckland, where coalition discussions will take place on Thursday, the incoming Prime Minister confirmed negotiations are in their "final stages". However, he refused to put a timeline on when a new Government could be formed.
But National deputy Nicola Willis – who was also at the hotel with other members of National’s brain trust – said discussions were advanced enough that the topic of ministerial roles had been raised. Luxon has previously said he expected policy to be addressed first in negotiations and portfolios later.
Thursday marked a change in tack from National in terms of communicating with the public. Previously, Luxon hasn't stopped and made himself available to reporters ahead of meetings, but he stopped to answer questions about negotiations before going into the hotel on Thursday.
"We want to make sure that we get a strong and stable government for New Zealand. So we are making great progress. We're in the final stages," Luxon said.
"But today is a day where we're going to spend this morning with the National team, just processing our conversations from yesterday. And then we'll look to do some meetings in the afternoon."
Luxon said he expected National to meet with New Zealand First and ACT on Thursday afternoon. But that doesn't mean all three parties will be in a single room like on Wednesday morning.
"What all of us have needed at different times is just time to actually process it as our own individual parties and our negotiating teams. That's what we're doing this morning is processing what was a full day of conversations yesterday. But our intention is that we'll be connecting with both parties over the afternoon."
He said the negotiators are "pretty close" to getting a deal across the line and are working "through the last couple of issues and conversations".
Speaking to reporters ahead of Luxon arriving, National deputy leader and finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said all political parties would love to "race" to a "good result".
"Don't you worry every morning, my family say, mum, are you gonna announce the Government today? And I've had many an Uber driver who said the same thing, but equally, we are conscious of those other people who have been saying to us, now, just make sure you deliver the thing you promised me."
She said it was her sense that negotiations were in the "final stages" and all parties were looking at the details of the agreements.
"So, we are literally going through clause by clause, sentence by sentence, is everyone happy?"
Willis said there has been "some thinking" about ministerial roles. While the focus has been on policy, there has been consideration of "who are the leaders that are in place to deliver those policies".
One of the suspected sticking points for negotiations is National's tax plan, which includes gathering revenue through a tax on foreign buyers purchasing homes worth more than $2 million. New Zealand First has historically been opposed to allowing foreigners to buy up New Zealand land, while National's plan was generally criticised by economists prior to the election as not adding up.
Asked if New Zealand First had "killed" her foreign buyers tax, Willis said: "No one has been killing anything".
"The approach has been more understanding where people are coming from. What are the principles, what are the values that are important to the respective parties?"
She said all parties agreed working people were being "terribly affected" by the rising cost of living and a new Government had to manage the economy better and deliver results "including through tax reduction".
Willis refused to say the foreign buyers tax would make it through negotiations, but promised to New Zealanders "you will be getting your tax reduction".
National MP Simeon Brown said the parties were making "good progress", but refused to say what the key issues were that are holding up any deal.
"We are working through the detail to get a good outcome for New Zealanders."
Also at the Cordis on Thursday was National MP Paul Goldsmith. He said everyone would have wanted a Government deal as soon as possible.
"We are just working our way through all the issues. I wouldn't put a date on it. But we are going as fast as we can," Goldsmith said.
Chris Bishop was also there. He scootered past reporters just before Luxon arrived.