National is planning its most expensive election campaign ever as it attempts to win a fourth term in Government.

And Party President Peter Goodfellow says the party has got the money to pay for it.

The party’s total payout for its campaign in 2014 was $3.8 million – but some of that was able to be charged to individual electorate campaigns.

Goodfellow told a party regional conference over the weekend that as a result of deciding they would spend more than they’ve ever spent they have had to build a “war chest”.

“I’ve got to say it is building strongly,” he told the conference in Taupo.

“No party can run a significant campaign without the right resources, including significant funding.”

At both the party’s South Island and Taupo conferences, Goodfellow has been saying that the party would focus a great deal of its campaigning on digital campaigning including social media and internet advertising.

Behind the scenes, party officials say they are confident even though as the party moves its conference into the North Island there are some concerns about a backlash over the iwi participation clauses in the Resource Management Act.

There were no signs in public of this at Taupo – but then there were no remits brought to the conference floor which would have allowed any backlash to be ventilated.

That may not be the case in Auckland next weekend.


Party officials are looking at trying to defuse any concern in Auckland by arranging for Environment Minister, Nick Smith, to talk privately to members who have raised the issue.

One provincial MP told POLITIK that the way the issue was playing in his electorate was that non-members of the party were bringing It up with members and making them nervous.

He suspected that the non-members might have been NZ First supporters.

National’s polling has shown that it is leaking some support to NZ First — and the iwi participation clauses may be a reason for that.

NZ First Winston Peters, is promising to make the iwi participation clauses a central plank of his election campaign because he says they contradict the “one law for all” proposition.

 Harete Hipango and outgoing Whanganui MP Chester Borrows

The irony for National is that it is starting to select some high profile, maori candidates — there were two at this conference; Adrienne Pierce in Palmerston North and Harete Hipango in Whanganui.

Hipango is the first Maori women selected by National in a safe seat.

The Prime Minister, Bill English, appears to carefully avoid talking about the iwi participation clauses when he talks to the party.

Instead, once again he was warning the members of the dangers of complacency.

He said that the electorate would apply a high test to National.

The difference “between New Zealand going forward and New Zealand stopping” was small margins, he said.

“Just look at what a small margin was required in Britain when they voted to leave the European Union.”

One of the great differences between the Opposition and National was that the Opposition parties spent a lot of time talking about each other, he said.

Throughout the weekend National Ministers paraded their success stories in front of delegates; Todd McClay on trade. Simon Bridges on roads and broadband, Nathan Guy on primary industries and so on.

But there were no tough questions or even debate.

Remits were anodyne though one from Hamilton West did pass calling on the Government to drop interest on student loans for people who had gone overseas provided they agreed to a regular repayment programme.

And another, from Whanganui,  called on the Government to encourage migration to the provinces.

Much of the conference was closed to the media when delegates heard from MPs Chris Bishop and Todd Muller in how to run local campaigns, and there was a session “Campaigning in a Digital World” and another on a “GOTV Campaign Strategy”.

Bill English spoke to the conference dinner (also closed) with a speech that delegates described as “very funny”.

Otherwise, it was a less substantial conference than the South Island one.

But again, Auckland next weekend,  where the party must effectively win the election against a background of a housing crisis and city-wide traffic congestion next weekend will be different.