NZ First's campaign promises old and rehashed policies

6:32 am on 20 July 2020

Analysis - New Zealand First is sticking to the tried and true as it fights for its survival at this year's election.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters talking to media at a stand up after his 2020 election campaign launch.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The new campaign slogan is 'Back Your Future', which screamed more 'Back to the Future' when party leader Winston Peters took to the stage to the same theme songs and announced the same policies from years gone by.

It's always fitting when in election year Peters resorts to Johnny Farnham's classic, You're the Voice.

The opening lyric - 'we have the chance to turn the pages over' - is the fresh opportunity Peters wants come election night.

But to start writing a coalition deal the party first has to either hit the 5 percent threshold, or in Shane Jones' case, win the Northland seat.

''When people ask about pressure and being burdened, I sort of feel although I've got fine rhetoric, this time round I really feel confident I'm bringing the ballast in this election campaign and I'm going to win that seat,'' Jones said.

More than 250 members and those interested in catching a glimpse of Peters in full campaign mode packed into the Highbrook Convention Centre in Auckland yesterday afternoon.

But there was nothing new about what Peters was promising - even his suit was from his younger days, after weight loss following recent surgery.

Immigration and frontline police were his two big policy announcements - one is a rehash from the last election and the other has been promised and delivered on twice before.

The immigration reset is that no more than 15,000 people come into New Zealand each year - and that they're all highly-skilled workers.

Peters said one of his MPs must be immigration minister for that to happen.

It's a bottom line.

"Because we were bringing (immigration) down - but not nearly fast enough - because we weren't in charge. That's why we want the immigration portfolio."

Peters said the definition of highly-skilled will change, but he's light on detail.

"We plan to create a much smarter one... one that doesn't have the OECD saying that your policies are a failure, (and) you're bringing in low-skilled workers.''

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters at his 2020 election campaign launch.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters at his 2020 election campaign launch. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

He warned increasing unemployment as a result of Covid-19 and the economic slump will bring higher crime rates, and so Peters also promised another 1000 frontline police officers in three years, if re-elected.

Senior MP Tracey Martin also announced a universal family benefit.

It would mean all families in New Zealand, with children under 16, would be provided a weekly allowance, no matter their income.

That policy is a return to the old too.

''Well the counter of that is you have to be patient and wait for the rest of the campaign,'' Peters said.

''I didn't come here to announce the whole policy in one day. Be patient and you'll hear some explosive new ideas.''

There was something new though - first time members.

For Hamilton's Natalia Robson-Bush it was her first time attending a party conference.

''I joined this year because I absolutely love the New Zealand First common sense approach and what they stand for.

"I think it's a wonderful vibe in the room,'' she said.

And there were also new candidates.

Rob Gore helped found Young New Zealand First, and is this year running in New Lynn.

''New Zealand First is absolutely the party for me, it's very exciting it's a little bit scary.

''But I've never felt more confident in my purpose and what I need to do over the next 60 days and I'm enjoying every minute of it,'' he said.

Peters walked to the podium to deliver his speech with Gore at his side, a sign that perhaps there is a new future on the horizon for New Zealand First.

But with a new campaign slogan - Back Your Future - Peters will have to let voters decide the fate of New Zealand First.

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