On Thursday the potential powerbrokers in the upcoming election will go head-to-head in a debate.
The Newshub Nation Powerbrokers' Debate will see ACT Leader David Seymour, NZ First Leader Winston Peters, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson take the stage on national television to make their case to the country.
They are expected to hammer home their parties' key policy points, charm voters, and undercut each other whenever possible.
Ahead of the debate we've compiled the latest information, alongside analysis, to ensure viewers across Aotearoa are well placed to critically engage with the policy that will be put forward by the minor party co-leaders.
Minor parties are having a major moment. No polls have Labour or National in positions to govern alone, so some form of agreement with one or more of the minor parties will be essential on their path to power.
ACT Leader David Seymour
ACT has seen a meteoric rise in recent years and currently stands as National's first choice for a coalition partner.
Seymour was the only ACT MP in Parliament after the 2017 election, but after 2020, the party held ten seats.
While ACT has polled strongly in the lead up to 2023's election, the party has taken a dip recently.
In Newshub's most recent Reid Research Poll, ACT polled at 10.1 percent, a drop of two percent since the last poll in August.
This recent softening in support comes alongside a bolstering in support for the National Party, which has shot up to 40.9 percent.
While ACT is National's first choice for a coalition partner, Seymour has made clear on numerous occasions that his party will not partner with National if coalition negotiations do not go his way.
Seymour told Newshub Nation in August, if National doesn't want "to play ball, we're not going to sell out for the baubles and make bad policy".
Seymour has floated the idea of entering a confidence and supply arrangement with National if an agreement cannot be reached during post-election negotiations.
After a remarkably good run out of the scandal limelight, ACT has recently become mired in numerous controversies, losing five of its candidates in just over two months.
PR consultant Ben Thomas believes that Seymour will be one of the most "assured debaters" on the stage come Thursday.
Though Seymour sometimes struggles to connect with voters on a personal level, his policies clearly have cut through, and Thomas believes there's the potential for Seymour to "go really deep on policy," on Thursday.
However, ACT's policies have attracted a lot of negative attention throughout the year.
ACT has been repeatedly accused of "race-baiting", including by Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer back in March, so expect tension between them on Thursday.
Thomas believes there will also be tension between Seymour and Peters, meaning that "they won’t really be talking to each other, they'll be talking to the audience".
This tension flared this week when Winston said on Te Ao with Moana that "David Seymour discovered his Māoriness the same way Columbus discovered America, purely by accident.
"Please don't tell me you put me in the same category as him," Peters said.
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters
Winston Peters has made a remarkable comeback.
After receiving 2.6 percent of the vote in 2020, NZ First has been polling close to or above the five percent threshold recently.
With five percent, Peters could hold the balance of power for the third time in his political career, the first in 1996 where he entered a coalition with National, and the second in 2017 where he partnered with Labour.
Peters ruled out another coalition with Labour late last year.
Even though nearly half of all Kiwis want National Leader Christopher Luxon to rule out working with Peters, he has consistently refused to do so.
Jo Moir from Newsroom writes that Luxon will work with Peters, but only if he must, and ruling him out would unnecessarily paint National into a corner.
Prof. Ella Henry from AUT's Business School said that Peters is "probably the most experienced in terms of that Parliamentary grind," and his campaigning prowess is clearly serving his party well.
This has been supplemented by a number of interesting campaigns advertisements for NZ First with Peters as the focal point.
There's a short video titled "This is not our first rodeo," which features Peters riding a horse.
Then there's his rendition of Rudyard Kipling's poem If.
These appear part of a trend from NZ First to use alternative methods of advertising to reach their base; a shining example was Shane Jones' rendition of Small Town Girl by Journey.
Looking ahead to the debate, Thomas joked that Peters will "reach into his grab bag of inscrutable policies, like progressing the Dargaville aerodrome project, or whatever New Zealand First's priority is right now".
Henry noted that it is a "delicious irony" that all the candidates have whakapapa, or Māori ancestry.
"They all have very different views about how to work with Māori, but they all actually have Māori blood in them which I think is kind of cool," she said.
Peters recently declared at a Nelson meeting that Māori are "not indigenous".
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer
A strong proponent of Māori voices in Parliament in Ngarewa-Packer, who will be doing her best at the debate to advocate for all things Māori.
Ngarewa-Packer entered Parliament in 2020 after fellow co-leader Rawiri Waititi unseated Labour's Tāmati Coffey in the Waiariki electorate.
Ngarewa-Packer narrowly lost out in her own electorate of Te Tai Hauāuru by 1050 seats in 2020, but told Newshub Nation that campaigning is going even better this time around.
A successful term in Parliament has given Ngarewa-Packer name recognition, but importantly, she is also no longer facing off against Labour's Adrian Rurawhe, who has strong ties to the Rātana Church which exudes much influence in the area.
However, polling from Curia Market Research conducted last week shows Labour's Soraya Peke-Mason ahead in the electorate on 34 percent, with Ngarewa-Packer trailing on 29 percent.
The Powerbrokers' Debate will be a key opportunity for Ngarewa-Packer to mobilise her base in Te Tai Hauāuru and across the country.
On Newshub Nation, PR Consultant Matthew Hooton predicted that this election will be a massive chance for Te Pāti Māori to sweep up the Māori electorates as support for Labour and National falters to some of their lowest levels since MMP begun.
Te Pāti Māori will be "aiming for seven seats, they'll probably get five," Hooton predicted.
We've seen what Ngarewa-Packer is like head-to-head in the house with against Seymour, but the Powerbrokers' debate will be her first real chance to debate against Peters and we can expect her to challenge him on his attitudes towards Māori.
Henry described Ngarewa-Packer as "a very articulate speaker so I think it's going to be a really interesting night for dialogue".
Ngarewa-Packer will undoubtedly champion her party's "radical tax reforms", which include a tax free threshold of $30,000, a wealth tax, an increase income tax for those earning over $200,000, and increasing the corporate tax rate to 33 percent.
Thomas said that Te Pāti Māori "has not really tried to fight this election or the last three years on policy," which is possibly a reflection of the controversy the party has courted.
Fellow co-leader Rawiri Waititi was in hot water in August for breaching name suppression in the House, leading to his suspension from Parliament.
Something to watch will be whether Ngarewa-Packer attempts to take a more moderate approach in the debate to attract wider support from the country-wide audience that will be viewing the debate.
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson
As Labour falls in the polls, the Greens are being bolstered, with the most recent Newshub Reid Research poll showing the Greens surging to 12.3 percent, just under half of Labour's 26.8 percent.
The Greens said in July that internal polling shows one in three New Zealand voters are interested in their policies and they are promising a standalone Ministry of Climate change if they find success at the election.
The Greens have effectively ruled out working with the National Party, with Davidson telling the Project on Monday, "we can’t take anyone seriously who wants to open up the dirty fossil fuel exploration," referring to National's plans to end offshore oil and gas exploration if elected.
Henry said, "There's no secret between Te Pāti Māori and the Greens that they share common aspirations on many fronts," so expect similarities between Davidson and Ngarewa-Packer's policy approaches.
With headlines often dominated by her counterpart, Climate Change Minister James Shaw, the Powerbrokers' Debate will be a key opportunity for Davidson to distinguish herself.
Davidson is currently the Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence and Associate Housing Minister in charge of homelessness.
She has only issued seven press releases this year, three of which were budget related.
Last year, Davidson was accused of spending more time on social media than doing her job by the National Party after it was revealed that since getting her roles, she had issued just eight press releases and presented only three papers to Cabinet.
It is no surprise that Shaw is the more prominent co-leader of the Greens as he holds the Climate portfolio, and the party's focus is climate change, Davidson will need to push the party's tax policy to make her mark at the debate.
In June, the Green Party unveiled its tax policy, which it claims will lift every New Zealand family out of poverty by guaranteeing Kiwis' incomes never fall below $385 per week.
The 'Income Guarantee' will cost about $11b and includes a tax-free theeshold of $10,000, further adjustments to tax rates resulting in anyone earning under $125,000 receiving a tax cut, a replacement to the Jobseeker benefit and Working For Families, and payments to all tertiary students.
Thomas said that Davidson "can go as deep as she wants" on policy, and we can expect her to do so at the Powerbrokers' Debate.
While these approaches to tax are popular amongst the Greens voter base, Labour has decisively ruled out a wealth and capital gains tax.
If Labour is to be in government post-October 14, it will have to rely on the Greens' support, so there will be tension between their different approaches to tax should they form a government together.
The Greens have also had controversies this year, with Dr Elizabeth Kerekere's resignation in May standing out as the most significant.
She was accused of calling fellow MP Chlöe Swarbrick a crybaby in a group chat.
Where to watch the debate
The debate is happening live at 7:30pm tomorrow and will be available to watch on channel Three, on Three's on demand streaming service ThreeNow, and streamed on YouTube, Facebook, and on Newshub.co.nz.
Watch the full video for more.
Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on Three & Three Now, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.