2 Sep 2016

NZ First buoyant ahead of convention

11:38 am on 2 September 2016

New Zealand First believes it has its political foes worried as it heads into election year.

The party will hold its 23rd convention in Dunedin this weekend, buoyed by its recent performance in political polls.

Winston Peters giving his 2015 Budget speech.

Winston Peters says current political polls should be of serious concern to New Zealand First's political foes. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Party leader Winston Peters has vowed to mount New Zealand First's strongest campaign yet in 2017.

After holding its support at close to 10 percent for most of 2016, the party slid just a little to sit at about nine in RNZ's poll of polls, which is the average of the four most recent major polls.

That was up on the 7 to 8 percent support New Zealand First held last year.

Mr Peters tipped an election day surge.

"If you look at those polls in the last four elections and how they varied from the final result on election day, then New Zealand First has got every reason to be quietly confident of our ability to mount the strongest of campaigns in 2017," he said.

"In short, those polls are seriously assuring to us and, dare I say it, of serious concern to our political foes."

In 2011, New Zealand First stormed back into Parliament with seven percent of the vote, after polling below the five percent threshhold right up until election day.

What little support the National Party has lost in recent polls appeared to have gone New Zealand First's way.

The party's long-held policies were striking a chord with voters, Mr Peters said.

"Offshore buying and mass immigration is a pathway to further agony in New Zealand and we need to reign back those things, and ensure we have an export-led recovery."

One of the party's first-term MPs, Darroch Ball, said New Zealand First could capture more votes in the regions, and build on its Northland by-election success in 2015 - when Mr Peters won the seat from National.

"People have just had enough, and if you talk about the fact that National had such a huge majority in Northland in 2014 and lost it a year or so later, I think it shows that the reality is hitting home for the people in the regions, that the Government is neglecting them," Mr Ball said.

However, there had been internal ructions within the party.

MP Tracey Martin was rolled as deputy leader last year by Ron Mark.

Mrs Martin then went on to publicly slam the party over its attitude to women.

But things had changed since then, with committees working on relevant policy, she said.

"We hadn't stretched into those spaces that were specifically affecting women that need to be addressed - and that is domestic violence and pay equity.

"I was disappointed at that time, but I am much more confident now."

More women had come forward wanting to be New Zealand First candidates, too, she said.

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