31 Aug 2009

Peters talks up NZ First but stays coy on own future

3:22 pm on 31 August 2009

Winston Peters has emerged from New Zealand First's annual general meeting saying the party is facing the future with renewed confidence.

More than 150 party members came together in Hamilton for the party's first major gathering since it dropped out of Parliament at the last election.

Mr Peters's continued leadership was endorsed at the meeting, which was notable for the absence of former senior MPs like Ron Mark, Doug Woolerton, Peter Brown and Dail Jones.

Mr Peters says he is starting an army to rebuild New Zealand First, and its policies are as relevant as ever. But he would not commit himself to standing at the next election.

The AGM was closed to the media, and New Zealand First members were reluctant to comment to reporters about the state of the party.

Letter signalled intention to fight

Mr Peters has kept a low profile since the election, but in a recent letter to supporters in which he referred to the battle of 2011 he clearly signalled an intention to fight to return to Parliament.

In the letter last month, Mr Peters apologised for mistakes made before the election, during which he had a tempestuous relationship with the media over questions about donations to the party.

Ignoring smacking referendum 'not the answer'

Mr Peters attacked the Government and Parliament over its response to the results of the referendum on smacking, in which 87% of people who voted said a smack as part of good parental correction should not be a criminal offence.

He says the current legislation is "absurdly unsatisfactory" and ignoring the views of the clear majority of New Zealanders is not the answer.

Winston Peters identified privitisation, the Auckland supercity and the foreshore and seabed as important issues for the party.