New Zealand First leader Winston Peters to become deputy PM, foreign minister

Leader of the NZ First party Winston Peters speaks at a press conference backing Jacinda Ardern as prime minister at Parliament in Wellington on Oct 19, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) - New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters has been appointed deputy prime minister and foreign minister, elevating the veteran protectionist politician into two of the country's most powerful positions.

Peters delivered government to the Labour party through a coalition deal after a closely fought election on Sept 23 failed to result in a majority for the governing National or Labour parties.

"He brings a wealth of experience to both roles and I look forward to working closely with him," Labour's prime minister-designate Jacinda Ardern told reporters.

Peters was foreign minister in a Labour-led government in 2005, during which time he became among a handful of Western politicians to visit North Korea.

While he was expected to be offered the deputy role after obtaining the balance of power, his appointment as foreign minister was unexpected.

Richard Shaw, politics professor at Massey University, said Peters was a "conservative economic nationalist".

"One of the things we've seen from him over the last couple of weeks is the concern with the extent that relatively unbridled free trade has on his constituents," said Shaw.

Many of Labour and NZ First's policies during the campaign drew on voter concerns that immigration and foreign buyers of local homes were putting too much pressure on infrastructure and house prices.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.