National leader Judith Collins blames her low popularity in the polls on how hard it is to "tell people they got sold a pup at the election".
In the latest TVNZ poll, Collins was on 5 percent as preferred Prime Minister - well behind ACT leader David Seymour on 11 percent and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 39 percent.
Her rating is down compared to Newshub's most recent poll in August, which showed Collins on 8.2 percent, behind Seymour on 8.6 percent and Ardern on 45.5 percent.
It was a significant drop for Collins, who was on 14.6 percent in July last year after taking over following Todd Muller's short stint as leader. Just a few months prior, Muller rolled Simon Bridges, who until COVID-19 came along, had kept the party numbers reasonably high.
National is now struggling to get out of the 20s, coming in at 28 percent in the latest poll, up 2 points. ACT is meanwhile riding high for a minor party, at 14 percent.
"It's very hard when you're the Opposition leader having to tell people that what they got sold at the election was a pup, and when they voted for Labour, they voted for a safe COVID response and a Government that understood and was going to keep out the Greens and look after the economy," Collins told reporters on Tuesday.
"What they found instead is a Government that has absolutely and utterly failed.
"No one wants someone to tell them that. No one likes the person that has to tell them that. That's the way it goes and you have to keep on doing it and focus on the things that matter. But what I can also say to them is that the only way to change this Government is National."
Speculation has been brewing that Bridges could soon roll Collins and return as leader. Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien told The AM Show in August the party was looking at rolling Collins next year.
Bridges denies plotting against Collins.
"It's not my intention to stand for the leadership of the National Party. The reality is, it's a tough job, and I've got a lot of sympathy for Judith Collins," he told reporters.
"I think what is true is, I was deposed as leader, we fought an election, it didn't go well, I've written a book, I feel grateful that that's gone well, and I'm enjoying being a Member of Parliament. I'm enjoying the roles I've got. I'm enjoying getting out and about, time with family, and all those things."
Bridges didn't even make an appearance in the latest preferred Prime Minister stakes. But his colleague Christopher Luxon, the former CEO of Air New Zealand who was elected to Parliament last year as MP for Botany, did.
In fact, Luxon was just one point behind Collins. But he denies having had any conversations about leadership.
"None whatsoever. I'm focused on what we need to do and that is at the moment, focus on taking the fight to the Government on Three Waters," he told reporters.
"The big story of the polls is that this is a Government that is not actually delivering for people. They're not registering the hurt, they're disconnected from where people are at, and that's the big story here."
Ardern acknowledged the significant drop in support for Labour since the election. Labour is now sitting at 41 percent, compared to 50 percent on election day.
"I still feel really confident in that vote of confidence we have from New Zealanders for us and for our traditional support partners," she told reporters.
"What I would say is that it's clear we're in a really tough time in New Zealand and we are having to make tough decisions. But from here, you can see that pathway to the new strategy where people will see greater freedoms and a real change in the way that we continue to manage COVID."