National's Nicola Willis says Government is wrong denying 'homegrown issue' behind skyrocketing inflation rates

National's deputy leader and finance spokesperson Nicola Willis says the Government is wrong to deny the "homegrown issue" contributing to spiralling inflation rates.

Annual inflation is continuing to skyrocket with figures released on Thursday revealing inflation hit 6.9 percent, the largest year-on-year increase in nearly 32 years - and it could go higher.

Labour was quick to point to international factors as the driving force behind sky-high inflation, but National says it should be doing more to control the rising prices in our own backyard.

Appearing on Newshub Nation on Saturday, Willis said there are domestic factors contributing to the large rate of inflation. 

"They [Labour] are right in saying that there are some global factors. They are wrong in denying that we have a homegrown issue as well. They are wrong and not coming up with a plan for addressing it, and they are wrong for denying their part in solving it," Willis said.

Tradable inflation, which measures foreign markets' influence on goods and services, hit 8.5 percent and domestic, or non-tradable inflation, hit 6 percent - both the biggest annual movement since records began in June 2000.

Speaking from Tokyo on Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said countries around the world were seeing soaring inflation, but she said it doesn't make it any easier for Kiwis who are experiencing it. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Thursday that New Zealand is "well-positioned" to respond to this challenge.

Robertson said the Government is focused on getting to the "root cause" of some price increases by slashing fuel prices, taking action to boost supermarket competition in the country and introducing the Clean Car Discount.

But Willis said the Government needs to reign in its spending.

"Well, the homegrown issue is that we have a lot of money in the economy and we have a lot of constraints in the economy. So we think it's time for the Government to take steps to address that," Willis told Newshub Nation.

One of the biggest contributors to domestic inflation is high housing costs heavily influenced by cheap money - low-interest borrowing - being pumped into the economy.

While National agrees that the Reserve Bank lowering interest rates, which was at the time also supported by National, has had an impact on inflation rates, Willis said the Reserve Bank needs to be focused on price stability and be supported by targetted effective fiscal policies.

"This is a time for the Government to be very careful not to add inflationary fuel to the fire with a spend, spend, spend approach," Willis said.

She said the Government is blaming spending increases on COVID-19, but spending this year - which has had no lockdowns - has increased by around $20 billion. 

"Prove to us that you are getting value for every dollar," Willis said. "And I think of multiple examples where I'm not seeing the discipline and careful economic management that New Zealanders have a right to expect right now." 

Willis said that part of National's relief for the cost of living crisis is to provide tax relief, including getting rid of Labour's 39 percent top tax rate on annual income exceeding $180,000.

She said the $1.7 billion tax package National is putting forward right now targets the squeezed middle that is being ignored, giving relief to them as well as benefitting those that earn more.

"Well, what our concern is always is that we want to be sure that people know that when they work hard in this country, when they innovate, when they put in a little bit extra that they will gain from that."

Willis criticised the Government's spending on Robertson's "pet projects", including the almost $2 billion spent on mental health that the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission found had led to no change in access to specialist mental health services.

"What we need right now is a Government that doesn't just focus on the dollars on the press release, but on delivery, on results, on outcomes," Willis said.

Willis also criticised the Government's spending on the health reform at a time the health sector is already stressed, saying they would rather see money go into more hospital bed space than "desks in Wellington".

The reform plans to disestablish the country's 20 district health boards, to be replaced by one new body, Health New Zealand, to help fix the health sector and provide consistency.

"If we were sitting around the cabinet table right now, having a health system under stress, under pressure, having just come through a global pandemic, would we then say to them that we're going to put a huge round of restructuring on top? No, we would not." 

Willis said she will present a fiscal plan before the next election that will represent National's values which are "if you're working hard in this country, you're putting in innovation, you're putting an effort, then you deserve to feel like you're getting a hit".

"Right now, that is not how New Zealanders are feeling they are slipping backwards," she said.

"And the reality is when costs are going up as fast as they are and it's costing your average household an extra $150 a week and wages aren't keeping up and there's no prospects for the future, people are feeling desperate.

"And Grant Robertson can sit to one side and say 'I'm doing everything perfect' but we disagree."