No media were admitted to the leaders' talks yesterday morning. Winston Peters and Christopher Luxon posted this picture on Facebook. No one even knows who took it.

In a surprising revelation, POLITIK has learned that New Zealand First has submitted its policy wish list to National only this week.

That may be what is slowing the talks between the three leaders down.

If past experience is anything to go by, New Zealand First’s list will be detailed and complex and will take time to digest.

ACT apparently has been discussing its wish list for some time, and unlike NZ First, it has a number of “nerd” MPs who have highly detailed understandings of their portfolio areas and who have been able to provide policy papers for National.

NZ First, on the other hand, will be heavily reliant on its manifesto, plus whatever else Winston Peters thinks should be added.

That may not lend itself to a brief document.

Its previous agreements have been full of prescriptive detail.

Its 2017 agreement with Labour ran to eight pages; its 2005 agreement was six pages, and its 1996 agreement with National went to 73 pages.

Its manifesto for the recent election campaign ran to 16,000 words and is full of arcane detail.

It includes “big picture” policies like establishing a Ministry for Infrastructure and a Ministry of Energy alongside minor proposals like upgrading Dargaville’s grass runway aerodrome.

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Buried within it are ghosts of New Zealand First’s aversion to Asian migrants with a policy requiring a government to Work towards ensuring that the right to take and use water is first available only to New Zealand people (citizens and permanent residents) and New Zealand-owned companies.

That is a clear reference to a number of Chinese-owned companies, like Nungfu Spring, which is extracting water from a spring near Whakatane.

It will be dealing with these proposals, line by line, which will take time.

But despite the three party leaders meeting together yesterday for the first time, it seems there is still no agreement on the big issue: tax.

The obvious trade-off is for National to abandon the foreign buyers’ tax and recover more money from the ETS unit auctions.

That may be easier than might have been imagined.

Treasury’s forecast revenue from ETS unit sales, as reported in the Budget Economic and Fiscal Update (BEFU) in May, was predicated on an ETS unit price of $54.50.

But units yesterday were selling at $70.10.

The BEFU estimated that for each $10 increase in unit price, the crown would gain another $600 million in revenue; that is almost as much as the $795 million National is forecasting it would get from the foreign buyers’ tax.

That is still moot, however, since no units have sold at auction this year and would seem unlikely to sell at the next auction on December 6 because of uncertainty hanging over the market caused by a Government review of the ETS scheme.

National is believed to be sympathetic to the idea of dropping the review and thus opening the sales up again at next year’s auctions.

There is also likely to be agreement among all three parties to speed up the consenting process for critical infrastructure.

That is likely to see a streamlined, fast-track consenting process for major infrastructure projects.

And there should be a consensus among the three parties on the emerging issues surrounding Labour’s National Policy Standard on Freshwater.

This is an emotional issue with the Greens and most environmental organisations pushing for swimmable rivers and streams.

Farmers, however, are incensed by what they say are overly demanding requirements being set by Councils to comply with the standard.

Federated Farmers yesterday launched a campaign to have the new Government withdraw the standard.

Each Council is developing its own interpretation of how the plans should be implemented.

Farmers have become particularly incensed as three regions have begun to implement the standard, with one, Northland, requiring that resource consent will be needed to farm on land over 25 degrees. 

Federated Farmers says that would cover 250,000 hectares or 40% of Northland’s agricultural land.

“Obtaining a resource consent will be an expensive process for Northland sheep and beef farmers, and once they’ve gone through the process, there’s a high chance consent may not even be granted,” said  Colin Hurst, National Vice-President of Federated Farmers.

At the very least, the new Government is likely to postpone the introduction of the Freshwater Policy Standard and might well go back and redraft it in the meantime.

Footnote: By 9.30 last night, Winston Peters had 183,000 views of the trio picture on his Twitter (X) feed, while Christopher Luxon had 76,000. David Seymour posted the pic on Instagram.