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a smirking winston peters surrounded by the words "Māori loans affair" "sir Peter Buck" "Winebox Inquiry" "super gold card"
(Image: Tina Tiller)

PoliticsOctober 10, 2023

The Winston Peters glossary

a smirking winston peters surrounded by the words "Māori loans affair" "sir Peter Buck" "Winebox Inquiry" "super gold card"
(Image: Tina Tiller)

A Gen Z writer attempts to figure out what Winston Peters is talking about. 

Winston Peters is one of New Zealand’s longest-standing politicians ever. He has been around since the 1978 general election, when he was elected as an MP for the Hunua electorate*, representing National. He founded his party New Zealand First in 1993, the last election before MMP came in, and has been its leader ever since. He’s been deputy prime minister twice, under Jacinda Ardern, Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley. During that period, he’s been out of parliament thrice, from 1981-1984, 2008 to 2011 and 2020 until now.

Peters’ long political life means that the children of people who were born after he became an MP could be voting in the 2023 election. This means that multiple generations of people haven’t been around for the whole Peters story – and while much of his party’s policy is aimed at those in the 60+ and/or north of Warkworth demographic, Peters clearly relishes in demonstrating the knowledge born of his longevity to others, like in the multi-party leaders’ debate at TVNZ last week, where he pulled out a copy of Āpirana Ngata’s book and answered a question about white collar crime by talking about the Winebox Inquiry.

The Winebox what now? I did not study politics and lived outside of Aotearoa for most of my life until 2018, so I’m basically a blank slate when it comes to most of Peters’ political career (although this deep dive on Stuff is helpful). But at least now I (kind of?) know what the Winebox Inquiry was. 

a māori man with bron skiin, in a suit, infront of a cloudy sky
Winston Peters. (Illustration: Ross Murray for the Spinoff)

Historical figures 

Āpirana Ngata

Who is he? Ngata was a lawyer and politician who is on the $50 note and was an MP for nearly 40 years, from 1905 to 1943. He was especially focused on Māori rights, standards of living and land access and was the founder of the Young Māori Party, not a political party per se but an organisation dedicated to improving the position of Māori, in part by encouraging them to adopt European ways of life. Peters often mentions Ngata when he is talking about why he believes co-governance is bad. 

Did I know them before writing this article? Yes, I knew that Ngata was a famous Māori MP but nothing else about him. Maybe I should spend more time examining our currency…

Peter Buck

Who is he? Buck, aka Te Rangi Hīroa, was a Māori doctor and anthropologist in the early 20th century, who was a member of Ngata’s Young Māori Party. He wrote about traditional Māori medicine and was an athlete, an MP and, later in his life, an American museum director. As with Ngata, Peters likes to mention Buck as a famous Māori man who (Peters says) would agree with his stances, like saying that Māori are not indigenous

Did I know who Buck was before writing this article? I thought I did but then I read the Wikipedia page and realised I must have been thinking of someone else. 

a black and white picture of two men wtahnding ina field and wearing suits
Āpirana Ngata and Peter Buck alongside a tukutuku panel at Ngata’s home at Waiomatatini, during a Dominion Museum expedition by Elsdon Best, James Ingram McDonald and Johannes Andersen. (Photograph taken by James Ingram McDonald in 1923.

Political events

Māori loans affair of the 1980s

What is it? The Māori loans affair occurred when Peters was in opposition as a National MP: he heard that the then Department of Māori Affairs (now Te Puni Kōkiri) had attempted to raise hundreds of millions of dollars overseas. 

Did I know about it before writing this article? No.

The Winebox Inquiry

What is it? Turns out this is a spicy media/politics story from 1994, where Peters initiated an investigation of corruption in the Serious Fraud Office and Inland Revenue Department. (Incidentally, the SFO has since investigated Peters around his election donations.) The Wikipedia page gets into some of the gnarly detail. It’s called the Winebox Inquiry because Peters brought the documents to parliament in a winebox. The investigation didn’t find anything (although this is quite controversial) but it did successfully raise Peters’ profile. Peters mentions the inquiry when, as at the debate last week, he wants to assert that New Zealand First goes harder than other parties on corruption. 

Did I know about it before writing this article? No.

Do I understand it now? Honestly, no. I’m not sure anyone except Winston Peters does.

a red background with wine in a cardboard box
Not *that* kind of winebox (Image: Archi Banal)

SuperGold card

What is it? It’s a card that gives people over the age of 65 free off-peak public transport and various other discounts. It’s one of Peters’ and New Zealand First’s flagship victories, which was a condition of him supporting Helen Clark’s Labour Party to form a government after the 2005 election. Peters mentions the SuperGold card when he wants to remind older people to vote for him or point out the concessions he’s been able to gain as a coalition partner.

Did I know about it before writing this article? Yes – and I even knew Peters was responsible! 

The electoral petition in 1978

What is it? It’s the reason we had to put an asterisk above the 1978 election result for Peters. He didn’t actually assume the seat of Hunua until 1979 – he had to petition the High Court to overturn the electoral result. The songs that were at the top of the charts then were bangin’, by the way. 

Did I know about it before writing this article? No.

The waka-jumping bill 

What is it? It’s a law that makes it harder for electorate MPs to leave their party and still retain their electorate seat; if the party leader requests it, the MP must re-contest their seat in a byelection. While Peters has waka-jumped in the past to form New Zealand First, supporting the bill was part of the coalition deal between NZ First and National in 2017.

Did I know about it before writing this article? Uh, sort of?

winston peters holding up a sign that says "no"
When Peters chooses not to speak, a sign will do

Catchphrases and anecdotes

Philadelphia lawyer

What does it mean? It’s one of Winston Peters’ favourite insults for Jack Tame and means “a lawyer who cleverly uses technicalities”. 1News cleverly used SEO to write an article about the term just after *that* explosive Q&A interview

Did I know what this meant before writing this article? Not at all.


What does it mean? I can’t readily find any other examples of “Cinderella” being used as a verb so perhaps this is a Peters neologism? Peters uses it to mean “neglected and ill-treated in an extremely unfair way”, which is what happens to Cinderella in the eponymous fairytale, I guess. He’s used it to refer to what the mainstream media has done to New Zealand First (OK) or what would happen to Southland without the Tiwai Point smelter.

Had I heard of this before writing this article? No, and tbh I’m still somewhat confused.

Riding horses to school

What is it? This is exactly what it sounds like: Peters simply loves to mention how he used to convey himself to his place of education on a horse. Peters grew up in very rural Northland; he walked to school along the beach if the tide was low, and used a horse when the tide was high. Sounds like a nice time!

Did I know about it before writing this article? Yes, because my grandmother used to ride horses to school in rural Waikato too. 

Keep going!