NZ Election 2020: Jacinda Ardern promises brighter future, attacks National at Labour election rally

By Craig McCulloch for RNZ

In a rally cry to Labour faithful, Jacinda Ardern has painted an ambitious vision of the future she says could be reality if New Zealanders "stick to our plan".

But her 2030 vision includes an area which has worsened under Labour's watch.

Ardern imagines a country without a housing waitlist, a list which has nearly quadrupled since the last election, despite Labour building roughly 4000 new state houses.

She also envisions a country "where children living in poverty has halved", with swimmable rivers and 100 percent renewable energy, and without health inequalities or COVID-19.

"It's a future that is not so distant, if we stick together, and if we stick to our plan," Ardern said.

Hundreds of Labour supporters packed the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington on Sunday afternoon for the party's largest election rally of the restarted campaign.

Ardern also took aim at the National Party in her speech, describing the Opposition as distracted.

"The alternative is an Opposition party that is focused on itself, that has lost its focus on economic responsibility and produced a plan with an $8 billion hole," she said.

"Mistakes like that cannot be laughed away, they threaten our economic recovery and put health and education at risk."

Unsurprisingly, Ardern's speech focused at length on the COVID-19 pandemic.

"While there was no playbook for COVID-19 we went hard and early and committed to a strategy of elimination," she said.

"I will always maintain that it has been and will continue to be the right thing to do."

Ardern said the pandemic would overlay all its decisions, but would not divert her from her goals.

"If there's one thing I've learned over the last three years though, it's what you do when the unexpected hits that counts.

"We can all campaign on long lists of policies and ideas, but you truly get to know your Government when disasters strike."

Ardern did not use her speech to unveil any new policy, but instead listed some which have already been announced, including more free lunches in schools and a new Matariki public holiday.

Speaking before Ardern, Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson showered his leader with praise, describing her as "Dr-Ardern-medicine-woman".

To those who dismissed Ardern as simply "a good communicator", Robertson said they seriously underestimated her razor-sharp intellect, strategic mind and "true leadership".

He let loose on National, attacking its string of leadership changes and various positions on the border.

Robertson said National's alternative budget had "more holes than a rabbit-run golf course".

He said the Opposition party was in "a rebuilding phase" which was precisely why it could not be entrusted with Government right now.