16 Oct 2022

Winston Peters puts Labour in the firing line at New Zealand First annual conference

8:44 pm on 16 October 2022
Winston Peters from the New Zealand First Party Leader's Address at The Rydges on Latimer at Christchurch.

Winston Peters denied he was stirring up a climate of fear with his speech at the annual conference in Christchurch on 16 October, 2022. Photo: RNZ/ Niva Chittock

Winston Peters has delivered a rousing speech to New Zealand First supporters, savaging his former coalition partner Labour for pursuing "woke, virtue-signalling madness" and a "separatist agenda".

The former deputy prime minister took aim at Labour in the closing address at his party's annual conference in Christchurch on Sunday afternoon.

In a nearly hour-long speech to some 250 people, Peters accused the government of scattering the "seeds of apartheid" through New Zealand's laws and institutions.

"Labour, the Greens, and the Māori Party would rather prioritise their separatist agenda, pursue policies of apartheid, obsess with revisionist history, and, without any mandate, change our constitution and the very essence of our democracy," he said.

Peters said the government's agenda was driven by "malignant paternalism" and "inverse racism".

"They are ramming it down your throats."

Speaking to reporters after his speech, Peters denied he was stirring up a climate of fear.

"What's going on in this country is straight-out racism," he said. "I'm against it and so are my colleagues."

Peters described the government's Three Waters project as "retarded theft" - later clarifying he meant the term in the mechanical sense of "stopping progress".

He also used his speech to outline several policies, promising to clamp-down on immigration, ban gang patches in public places, and spend billions of dollars on health and education.

"New Zealanders are getting sick and tired... of soft-in-the-heart, with a head to match, lily-livered liberals espousing policies against New Zealand's interest when it comes to immigration."

Peters said the government's plan - announced on Tuesday - to require farmers to pay for methane emissions from 2025 was "pure unadulterated bull dust".

"This is woke, virtue signalling madness, again. All to make our climate activists feel good about themselves," Peters said.

"Please don't tell me you care more about the environment than we do... stop making these unreasonable, stupid demands. We do care about this country. That's why we called this party New Zealand First."

ACT leader David Seymour issued a statement shortly after Peters' speech, labelling him "Winnie-the-wasted-vote".

"He chose Jacinda Ardern as prime minister back in 2017 and he won't rule out going with Labour again. It's a bit like a burglar selling you home contents insurance."

Peters quickly fired back: "Mr Seymour, I understand the condition - it's nervousness about relevance."

The prime minister's office said it did not have any comment to make on Peters' speech.

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