The Green Party has removed an ad on Twitter making fun of Simon Bridges, despite co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson defending it.
"To our supporters: we heard you, and we've deleted the post and apologise for causing offence," the party tweeted Tuesday. "We are using satire to call attention to that but obviously, it's landed poorly."
The ad featured footage of National leader Simon Bridges made to look like a car salesman, with voiceover from an actor using an accent similar to the Tauranga MP.
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It also poked fun at the National leader over his low polling, and highlighted his resistance to the Government's proposed price hikes on vehicles considered heavy polluters and discounts for their cleaner counterparts.
The attack ad is reminiscent of 'Bad Lip Reading' video clips where voiceover is added to videos in a comedic fashion.
Some Twitter users expressed disappointment over what appeared to be the Green Party making fun of Bridges' accent.
One user wrote: "You mocked a speech affliction. Well done."
Bridges said he found the ad "pretty funny" but said "clearly a lot of people don't".
"The reality is, we're holding the Government to account on their taxing of New Zealanders and they want to hold me to account on my accent."
Greens co-leader James Shaw said on Tuesday he had seen the ad before it was published on Twitter, and said it underlined National's "negative campaigning that's spreading misinformation".
"It's the kind of campaigning you saw in the [Donald] Trump campaign, and so on, and we felt that using humour to call attention to it and say it's unacceptable," Shaw said.
"You've got to ask yourself: do we want to be that kind of country? And I don't think we do."
National's ads attacking the proposed vehicle tax have often featured Green MP and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.
Shaw said the intention of the Greens' ad wasn't to make fun of Bridges' accent.
"We don't want to be that kind of country and we don't want to be the kind of place where political discourse sinks to that kind of level, and we felt humour was the best way to draw attention to that."
Greens co-leader Marama Davidson also defended the ad, saying she "thought it was quite funny".
"I think it's really important to speak the truth about the Nats' continuing to oppose taking real action on climate change," she said.
She also insisted the ad wasn't about making fun of Bridges' accent, but rather about "Simon putting every stop against taking real climate action".
When asked why it mentioned Bridges' polling, she said: "I think it's really important that people see the truth of the Nats and Simon blocking every move to take some action on climate change."
Newshub's latest poll showed that Bridges had dropped to 4.2 percent as preferred Prime Minister behind Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 49 percent.
When asked about the attack ad on Bridges, Ardern said politicians are "always going to hold each other to account, particularly based on the things we say in the public domain".
She said that "doesn't necessarily mean that it's attack so I really push back on that".
Bridges' accent has been the focus of attacks by politicians in the past.
Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters earlier this year made fun of Bridges' pronunciation of 'China' as 'Choina'.
In July last year, Peters also mocked the National leader over his pronunciation of 'mining' as 'moining'.