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In the fluid landscape of New Zealand politics, the latest poll results have thrown the National Party into a precarious position. Despite maintaining a lead in the party vote with 36 per cent, the prospect of forming a government becomes complicated due to the necessity of a potential coalition partner like New Zealand First. With just 46 seats on their own and the ACT Party at 10 per cent (having dropped 2 per cent since the last poll), National finds itself two seats short of the required 61 for a majority.

The potential solution appears to be NZ First, holding 6 per cent of the vote, which could bring their total seats to 67, securing a reasonably by-election-proof majority.

However, this possible alliance with NZ First raises significant challenges, particularly in areas such as immigration and indigenous affairs. The National Party’s more practical stance on these issues may clash with the policies and priorities of Winston Peters’ party. As New Zealanders head to the polls, it’s crucial to examine these potential points of conflict.

Immigration has long been a contentious issue in NZ politics. The National Party has generally advocated for a more open and market-driven immigration policy, often emphasising the economic benefits of skilled migration. On the other hand, NZ First has historically taken a more restrictive approach to immigration, calling for tighter controls in immigration numbers to prioritise the interests of Kiwi citizens.

If National were to rely on NZ First to form a government, reconciling these differing views on immigration would be a significant challenge. Striking a balance between economic growth and protecting the interests of Kiwis would require delicate negotiations and compromises.

Indigenous affairs, particularly the treatment of Māori people, is another area where the National Party and New Zealand First may find themselves at odds. National has typically supported policies aimed at addressing historical injustices and advancing Māori economic development, often working in partnership with Māori iwi (tribes).

New Zealand First, however, has sometimes adopted a more sceptical stance, questioning the effectiveness of Māori-focused policies and advocating for a “one law for all” approach. This could lead to tension between the two parties if they were to enter into a coalition.

The Treaty of Waitangi, a foundational document in NZ’s history, continues to be a touchstone issue. National has recognised the importance of honouring the Treaty and has made efforts to advance its principles in government. NZ First’s positions on the Treaty and related issues have sometimes been met with scepticism from Māori communities and treaty partners.

A coalition with NZ First would require the National Party to navigate this complex and sensitive terrain carefully. Balancing the interests of Māori and non-Māori New Zealanders while upholding the Treaty’s principles would be essential for maintaining trust and stability in such a government.

Furthermore, NZ First has been known for championing regional development, advocating for policies that support provincial areas. While this is not necessarily a point of conflict with the National Party, it does highlight the need for careful coordination and allocation of resources to ensure that regional development efforts align with the broader economic and social goals of the government.

Moreover, leadership dynamics can greatly influence the success of a coalition government. The National Party, under the leadership of Christopher Luxon, may face challenges in working with Winston Peters and NZ First. A clash in leadership styles and priorities could hinder effective governance

In the event of a coalition with NZ First, the National Party must be prepared to address these potential conflicts head-on. Open and transparent communication, a commitment to finding common ground, and a willingness to compromise will be essential for maintaining a stable government and achieving the desired policy outcomes.

The National Party’s current electoral position presents a dilemma. While they may need NZ First’s support to form a government (as per the latest poll), the potential points of conflict cannot be ignored. Hence Luxon’s exhortations to Kiwi voters to afford National+ACT a clear majority, without having to depend on NZ First.

As voters cast their ballots, the outcome of this delicate dance remains uncertain, but the challenges are clear.

First appeared in 3 October edition of the Indian Weekender