Judith Collins came out swinging at Jacinda Ardern, the Labour and Greens, recreational cannabis legalisation and some people on the unemployment benefit while at a public meeting in Matamata.
The National leader also choked up when asked about the mental health of people in rural New Zealand.
She arrived to a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 150 – “Anyone would think this is my home town,” she said.
“This is the most important election in generations. We haven’t even started to feel the pain yet,” Collins said of the economic impact of Covid-19.
She began asking the crowd if they had seen the TVNZ leaders’ debate last night against Labour leader Jacinda Ardern.
“I felt almost like I shouldn’t have enjoyed it so much,” Collins said.
TVNZ’s election tool, Vote Compass, found from those who watched the debate, Ardern was identified as the winner by 45 per cent, and Collins by 35 per cent.
After the debate, Ardern said she said politics was “not a blood sport”.
“Poor wee thing,” Collins began, saying Ardern wanted to “wallow around in Covid”.
“I’m so sick of being told and talked to like I’m a three-year-old.
“We have a country to save. She wants to make it about Covid. It’s all about economy.”
Collins said she would “look after” small business owners – accusing Labour of turning its back with its promise to raise the minimum wage to $20 next year and to hold a public holiday during Matariki from 2022.
Ardern the new public holiday could be an opportunity to increase people to spend on tourism and retail.
Collins took aim at the Green Party, with co-leader Marama Davidson previously saying, “tax is love”.
“Anyone who says tax is love is as mad as a cut snake,” Collins said. “I can’t be bothered with it.”
Collins called her “old sparring mate” Phil Twyford a “total failure” in housing and transport. She also took a shot at Labour's deputy leader Kelvin Davis – saying he was just there to make the party “look bad”.
“What does he do? Not a lot.”
Taking a break from criticising Labour and the Greens, Collins was asked by multiple attendees about the mental health of farmers and those living in rural areas.
“It makes me emotional,” Collins said as her voice wavered.
“Every farmer and every farmer’s family needs to know it is valuable work. I don’t think farmers are going to listen to people coming along and telling them to feel better.
“I will always stand up for farmers and their families. That is gold, frankly. Nobody does a better job than farmers.”
Today, Labour announced a new promise to support farmers and growers grappling with compliance requirements.
Party leader Jacinda Ardern announced an initial investment of $50 million to support integrated farm planning and streamline compliance.
Collins accused Ardern of not caring about the horticultural sector, as it struggled to find workers.
Collins said some people on the “dole…will turn up” to work in horticulture.
“But what about the ones who won’t?” One man in the crowd then asked, “and what about the marijuana?”
“I’m voting no,” Collins said of the cannabis referendum, saying the crowd did not want “two or three tinny houses” on their street.
“Every member of the National Party have agreed to vote against it.”
Currently, the draft bill sets out that only people aged 20 and older could access cannabis.
It would also control the production and supply of cannabis with rules for restricting access, growing and consumption, licensing requirements, taxes, levies and fees.
Licensed premises would be allowed to sell cannabis, but it could only be consumed on site or in a private residence. Consumption in public places would be prohibited, and online or remote sales of cannabis would not be allowed.
National told 1 NEWS that, if elected to Government, it would respect the cannabis referendum outcome and, if passed, introduce the bill and send it to Select Committee.