Prime Minister sets 2017 election date

Prime Minister Bill English has kicked the 2017 election campaign into life, announcing New Zealand will go to the polls on September 23.

Mr English made the announcement to media following his first Cabinet meeting for the year.

The 2017 election will feature a number of new faces replacing those who've decided not to stand this year, including former Prime Minister John Key and Education Minister Hekia Parata.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss and Local Government Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga will also be stepping away from the political spotlight.

Jo Goodhew is also retiring, her announcement coming shortly after being dumped from Mr English's Cabinet.

In making his announcement on Wednesday afternoon, Mr English said National would prefer to work with its current partners Act, United Future and the Maori Party.

As for New Zealand First, Mr English says the Winston Peters-led party would be an "unlikely partner".

However, he left the door open to "have discussions with them post-election depending on the makeup of Parliament".

Mr English says there are "big differences" between the parties, saying National "believes an open New Zealand, outward looking, open to investment, immigration".

He labelled the Labour-Greens partnership an "increasing far left, inward-looking grouping".

Leaders' one word to describe this election

  • "Growth" - Bill English 
  • "Future" - Andrew Little
  • "Prosperity" - James Shaw
  • "Hard-work (with a hyphen)" - Te Ururoa Flavell
  • "Volatile" - David Seymour
  • "Predictable" - Peter Dunne

It seems likely National will continue electorate deals with ACT and United Future in the Epsom and Ohariu seats respectively.

"I think you can expect existing arrangements which have worked would continue to underpin a stable National-led government," he says.

The Green Party is ready to take on the Government, saying it is "more energised and more prepared than we've ever been".

Co-leader James Shaw criticised Mr English's reluctance to denounce US President Donald Trump's strict rules around immigration.

"New Zealanders want a Prime Minister who represents our values to the world, not one who's happy to sleepwalk through a major global political moment," he says.

Mr Shaw believes there's "a real feeling for change" in New Zealand.

Election timeline:

  • August 22: Parliament dissolved
  • August 23: Writ day
  • September 6: Overseas voting opens
  • September 11: Advance voting starts
  • September 22: Advance voting ends
  • September 23: Election Day
  • October 7: Official results declared (including special declaration votes)

Mr English had previously ruled out the "ridiculous" idea of an early election, saying he wouldn't bring it forward to avoid by-elections to replace Labour MPs and former leaders Phil Goff and David Shearer.

Mr Goff was elected Auckland Mayor, while Mr Shearer left Labour for a United Nations job in South Sudan.

The former's Mt Roskill by-election was won by Labour's Michael Wood in December, while the vote on Mr Shearer's Mt Albert electorate will be on February 25.

A by-election doesn't have to be held if there is a general election within six months of the seat being vacated.