There's a chasm between New Zealand First and the Green Party, and throughout the 52nd Parliament Labour will be forced to find ways to bridge that gap. While this can be done, it also opens up opportunities for National to apply pressure to, and test the stability of, the coalition arrangement.
Over the long weekend we've already seen one possible area of contention open up around the Kermadecs Sanctuary, with NZ First and the Greens seemingly being promised different things on it by Labour. I've already suggested that this is a perfect opportunity for National to put a Members' Bill in the ballot to create the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary as a way of pitting NZ First and the Greens against each other, and forcing Labour to either take a side or use its financial veto.
All this begs the question - what other opportunities exist to pit the parties against each other and squeeze Labour in the middle of them? Importantly too for National, is where can they use these differences in NZ First's most valuable electorates to win back crucial votes over this term. With the NZ First seats that achieved a higher party vote than their final result, only West-Coast Tasman, East Coast, Rimutaka, and Palmerston North saw National perform lower than they did across the country, and those seats make up more than half of NZ First's support.
This isn't a full list, just some areas that could create tension in the coalition arrangements.
NZ First supports irrigation projects and water storage schemes, the Green Party opposes these on the basis that they support more intensive farming. This in turn flows onto dairy operations, where the Green Party wants a moratorium on dairy conversions while NZ First is pro-dairy.
There's also likely to be some tension around Labour's now discarded water tax, which the Green Party was in favour of but NZ First opposed, and the Green's proposed nitrate levy, which if NZ First acquiesces to will hurt them in provincial New Zealand as National seeks to win back support there.
NZ First and the Green Party have vastly different visions for the New Zealand Defence Force. While NZ First's policy includes such things as restoring offensive capabilities to the airforce, enhancing the offensive capabilities of the navy and army, and ensuring that our armed forces are capable of "expeditionary warfare."
The Green Party's policy, on the other hand, is conspicuous by its lack of any mention of offensive capabilities for the NZDF, instead focusing on peacekeeping, disaster and humanitarian relief, and border control.
There's a clear conflict between their two visions for the NZDF. Labour's current policy supports the 2016 Defence White Paper and its spending, which is closer to NZ First's position. As the purchases required in the White Paper come up for approval, it'll create opportunities to illustrate the divide.
Broadly speaking you can categorise NZ First's justice policies as focusing on harsher punishments for offenders via tougher sentences and the like, the Green Party is much more focused on providing rehabilitation and giving judges more, not fewer options when sentencing offenders. National's opportunity here is to take a middle ground approach, and force NZ First and the Greens into publicly disagreeing with each other on the issue, making Labour pick sides once more.
NZ First wants to see a Work for the Dole scheme re-introduced, the Greens are opposed to it. This has been a long-running policy of NZ First's, so they could well be prodded over selling out their principles in pursuit of government.
The Green Party essentially wants to abolish the Security Intelligence Service and gut our intelligence gathering abilities, (via Waihopai). While NZ First hasn't specified their position on our Intelligence services, given the fairly bellicose tone of their defence policy, I'd be surprised if this is something they'd permit to happen.
While both the Greens and NZ First are broadly in support of beefing up rail services, where NZ First is vulnerable is if large roading infrastructure projects get cancelled in the provinces. With NZ First needing to defend it's position in the provinces this term, the potential cancellation of earmarked roading projects could hurt them.
These are just some high level ideas, and based on a comparison of the two parties' websites, so there'll be plenty more opportunities, especially in the early days, to pit NZ First and the Greens against each other and test how Labour handles being pulled in either direction. National will be watching every media interview, reading every Facebook and Twitter post, checking every article written for quotes, and going through every line of the Hansard, to find even more.