National leader Christopher Luxon begins campaign to become Prime Minister as caucus retreat kicks off

It's not even an election year yet but Christopher Luxon has begun his campaign to become Prime Minister - kicking off the year with a caucus meeting in Queenstown, he's told MPs they need to change to win.

Wombling along the Wakatipu lakefront, National's top four - Luxon, deputy leader Nicola Willis, finance spokesperson Simon Bridges and COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop - admired the view and tested each other's trivia.

"What type of duck is that out there?" Luxon asked his colleagues. 

"A mallard," Bridges replied. "It's like the 30th deepest coldest lake in the world," he said of the lake. 

It's actually the 35th deepest. 

"Chris has been saying all morning he wants to go for a swim," Luxon said of Bishop, likening it with a laugh to "harpooning whales". 

Bishop brushed off his leader's burn, telling Newshub it was "honest feedback". 

"It's our new culture, Jenna," Luxon laughed. "That's what it is!"

Feedback culture - an essential element of: New year, new National. 

"For us, it's the year of saying 'look, we're back'," Luxon said as he kicked off the party's caucus retreat. 

The National Party hopes 2022 is the year of the comeback - but there's a lot of work to do to get there. 

"We do have to change to win. We have to make sure that we can demonstrate we care deeply about people," Luxon said in his speech. 

Because for the past four years, the National Party has only cared about itself - only concerned with leaking and leadership challenges.

"It was like we were at a cricket match and there was one side playing and everyone was in the stadium watching but we were in the changing sheds squabbling," is how Luxon described it. 

"That has stopped."

Bridges has high hopes. 

"I think it will be the year of rebuilding trust," he told Newshub. 

They'll need to win back both the public and each other's trust. 

Former leader Judith Collins made her first appearance since she was spectacularly rolled while attempting to take out Bridges. 

"Everything that's past is past. We're all moving to the future," she said at the conference. "I'm just moving on."

She's promising not to cause any more trouble.

"I never have, you see? I'm very supportive of Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis and I have to say I think I'm pretty much the ultimate team player."

They cannot afford any distractions. Harete Hipango's appearances at anti-vaxx protests was nipped in the bud with a telling off.

"I'm confident she's learned her lesson. It's a private conversation so I'll leave it there," Willis said. 

After four years of infighting, the policy cupboard is looking pretty bare, so Luxon just made one up on Monday - a tax credit policy to get people off welfare into work.

"Income tax credits, looking at tax thresholds, so that you actually are incentivising and encouraging people to go to work," he told reporters. "Not saying that's our policy, but we'll think that through deeply and think through the consequences."

Luxon knows every day counts and he's counting down to one in particular: Election Day. 

"We have seven quarters to go and every quarter matters, and so I believe firmly that if we make a decision today, in 13 weeks time we can feel the consequences and the outcomes of those decisions, so we can't lose a quarter, we can't lose a week," Luxon said in his speech. 

Although it's not even election year yet, his campaign begins now. It's game on. Here comes Decision 2023.