Poverty campaigners have challenged Simon Bridges to go to a Work and Income office and meet beneficiaries after he said he would reinstate benefit sanctions removed by Labour.
Mr Bridges told The AM Show on Monday he would bring back the sanctions to be "fair" to taxpayers, despite evidence showing they do not work.
"We need to be fair to taxpayers, hard-working taxpayers who deserve actually their money to be spent well, but also the beneficiaries who in terms of getting into a job, have a better life quality actually have more esteem and more of a purpose," he said.
Mr Bridges said he didn't want to be tough, but he thought the Government's actions would lead to more people accessing the benefit.
"It was about making sure we had expectations on beneficiaries that would lead to better lives for them. This Government's going soft in this area - it's a bit like crime, it won't work. It'll mean more beneficiaries, more people languishing on the dole queue, when we've actually got low unemployment in this country. It's a tragedy."
Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) representatives Kath Paraha and Ricardo Menendez March told The AM Show Mr Bridges needs to see for himself what the reality of poverty is like for people being sanctioned.
Ms Paraha said she had seen one woman move into her car as a result of the sanctions. She didn't want to name her children's father due to past abuse and as a result lost over $100 week from her benefit.
AAAP has also seen multiple families sanctioned after turning down job interviews for work that is not suitable for them, primarily roles that are inflexible around childcare requirements.
Ms Paraha said the children end up being punished as a result of the sanctions and Mr Bridges needs to see for himself.
"He probably doesn't see any of that, he should come down and have a look," she said. "I'd take him to WINZ with me while we're fighting for these families."
Mr Menendez March agreed, saying he knew exactly where Mr Bridges needs to go to see the reality of living on the benefit.
"We could take him to Manurewa Work and Income, I mean every morning there's queues of people," he said.
"They queue from 5am in the morning because they know that Work and Income will only be seeing the first few dozen."
The AM Show host Duncan Garner urged Mr Bridges to take up the challenge.
"There is your challenge, come see these guys and they'll take you to south Auckland and show you what you're talking about," Garner said.
"Go on. I'll go with you."