NZ First Leader Winston Peters at his party's recent conference. He can afford to lean back and relax now.

NZ First will revel in yesterday’s Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll showing them above five per cent; the second poll this week to do so.

Both National and Labour insiders say that if polls start to show the party getting above five per cent and, therefore, likely to return to Parliament, they are probably going to attract even more support because people will reason that a vote for them might not be a wasted vote.

And that is what the poll showed; that they were now on 5.8 per cent.

Peters looks to have boosted his vote by scooping up supporters from other minor parties, several of whom had their origins in the anti-vax movement at the same time as he may have seen as an easier choice for ex-Labour voters disenchanted with their party’s support for co-governance.

That vote had been going to ACT, but that was never an easy fit and may now start flowing to NZ First.

Perhaps significantly, ACT slipped very slightly in the Taxpayers’ poll.

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Labour has lost 4%, but National has managed to pick up only 1.6% of that and ACT none.

  • The Greens would seem to be profiting from Labour’s losses.
  • NZ First is already beginning to reap support from Winston Peters’s higher profile as he holds public meetings around the country.

Labour insiders say they are not too surprised by the party losing support; they expected to after the Kiri Allan affair.

They might even have expected to lose more.

They will also be encouraged that neither National or ACT are winning many of their defectors.

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Though Labour is very low, so, by historical standards, is National.

When she ran for the party leadership in 2017, Judith Collins said that if support ever went below 35%, she would resign as leader.

In fact, polling stayed well below that threshold for most of the 17 months she was leader, but she didn’t offer to resign.

The fact remains the Taxpayers’ Union poll ratings for the two main parties are unprecedently low.

Only once since the introduction of MMP (National in 1996) has the party that went on to form the Government polled as low as National rated in the Taxpayers’ Union poll.

No party-forming government has done so from the position Labour is in.

Instead, what we are seeing is the rise of the minor parties, the tails that like to wag the big dogs.

ACT has been the standout performer here, assisted by the relatively incident-free performance of its 10 MPs in Parliament.

It got 7.59% of the vote in the election, and the Taxpayers’ Union poll now has them at 13%.

Perhaps paradoxically for a right-wing libertarian party, ACT has tended to rise as Labour has slumped in the polls.

Both Labour and National Party insiders believe that is because the party has been much more explicitly anti-co-governance than National, and it tyherefore may have picked up Labour voters not happy with the party’s support for co-governance.

ACT has also been unafraid, both publicly and often privately, to criticise National.

But ACT’s harshest opposition is directed at New Zealand First.

ACT Leader has said it is impossible to see ACT and NZ First sitting around the same Cabinet table together.

That, of course, does not rule out both parties supporting a National government, but only one being in Cabinet.

At the beginning of this year, there was talk in National Party circles that the party would need both NZ First and ACT if it were to form a government.

POLITIK spoke to a former Key Minister who believed this was going to be essential if National were to form the next Government.

But NZ First was then not polling above five per cent.

As a consequence, there were suggestions that its Northland candidate, Grant McCallum, might stand aside to allow NZ First’s Shane Jones to win the seat.

National Leader Christopher Luxon has firmly rejected this idea.

At the same time, in the background, some influential, wealthy figures have been donating to National and then ACT and NZ First as well.

Auckland rich listers Mark Wyborn and Trevor Farmer have donated $50,000 to NZ First, and he has also donated six-figure sums to National and ACT.

One of the challenges facing NZ First is that it is becoming two parties; on the one hand, it is a populist, nationalist party exemplified by Winston Peters and the rhetoric he is adopting on the campaign trail.

That was typified in a speech in Christchurch on Tuesday where he had a go at Air New Zealand’s safety video about Tiake visiting the guardians “of this world.”

“Wouldn’t it be better if Air New Zealand got back to paying attention to accurate departure times and stopped this manufactured bulldust, which every kindergarten pupil knows is not possible – any more than “Waka Kotahi”, which means ‘boat on the road’ – another waste of money and still with potholes everywhere,” he said.

He has tried to exploit the criticism of increasing use of Te Reo and has said it is New Zealand First policy to have all Government departments names in English only.

But alongside all that, in New Zealand First, there is a more traditional conservative party rooted in the provinces looking to Shane Jones and former MPs like Mark Patterson for its inspiration.

Jones campaigns almost exclusively on economic issues— though he, too, will address the co-governance issue.

Patterson, who is also chair of Otago Federated Farmers, is a relatively moderate voice within farming politics.

Given that Peters will be 81 at the time of the next election, there must be questions about how long he can continue as leader and at the pace that he maintains.

In the meantime, he’ll be coming to a hall near you with his tried and true mix of nationalism, anti-Maori privilege, anti-globalisation and plenty of shafts at journalists, academics and anybody else who counters New Zealand the way he wants it to be.