National leader Judith Collins is dismissing claims she dropped the f-bomb during a TV debate against Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, who was outlining her housing ambitions.
A clip of the TVNZ debate was posted to social media website Reddit on Wednesday, with the publisher asking followers if they could hear Collins mutter the f-word under her breath as Ardern talked about housing.
"Honestly tried listening twice and other than muttering I couldn't actually say for sure what she said," one Reddit user said, while another said it sounded more like Collins scoffed and then muttered "ah come on".
Another said, "Yup, I heard it."
Collins on Wednesday denied claims she dropped the f-bomb during the debate, telling Newshub: "I certainly did not... Oh for goodness sake, they've got dirty minds."
It's not entirely clear what Collins says in the clip because her head is tilted down, but she does appear frustrated and shakes her head in disapproval at what Ardern is saying as she mutters something under her breath.
It was during a segment of the debate when Ardern was asked about her views on capital gains tax, a policy Labour campaigned on at the last election but failed to get across the line because of its coalition partner New Zealand First.
"I've tried for three elections now. It hasn't been for lack of trying. You know, as a member of the Labour Party we consistently took a capital gains tax to voters and at some point you have to accept that voters don't agree with you and I accepted that," Ardern said.
The Labour leader was then asked if she would still like a capital gains tax.
"I've already said that I still believe in it, but I have given my word - you will not have a capital gains tax under a Labour Government that I lead," Ardern said. "However, have I given up on my ambition for housing? No."
That's when Collins could be seen shaking her head and muttering something that the Reddit user seemed to think was an f-bomb.
Collins fired up as Ardern talked about her housing policies such as the foreign buyer ban and the recently unveiled progressive homeownership scheme, which is part of the revamped KiwiBuild programme that failed to meet its targets.
"I do think things like the foreign buyer ban made a difference," Ardern said.
"House prices have gone up 27 percent," Collins retorted.
The latest data from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand says median house prices across the country increased by 16.4 percent in August to $675,000, up from $580,000 the same time in 2019.
Ardern responded, "Progressive homeownership will make a difference. We need to keep going. But this is a housing crisis I can't turn around in three years."
Collins said Ardern's response made her "laugh".
"The fact is, progressive home ownership was campaigned on by Ms Ardern an election ago and it hasn't actually eventuated."
Ardern criticised National for not backing the Government's healthy homes standards, which became law on July 1. All rentals must comply with standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage.
Collins said earlier this month the regulations related to heating would be kept if National took power after the election, but the others would be dropped, because it puts too much pressure on landlords.
"At the moment I'm not worried about the healthy homes, what I'm worried about is the fact that you can't get rid of an unsocial tenant who causes mayhem in the rest of the street," Collins said during the debate.
"That's what worries me."
The Government announced in May it would borrow $5 billion in the next four to five years to build 8000 state and transitional houses in partnership with housing providers.
But the Government is being labelled callous for its plan to charge people in emergency housing a quarter of their income as rent, which will come into force two days after the election.
In the last two years, the Government has built 548 KiwiBuild homes, 3178 statehouses and the wait list for state housing quadrupled to nearly 20,000.
Ardern has admitted there is still a housing crisis.
"I do believe so long as we have people who are struggling with housing then I would say we have a significant housing need."