New Zealand First leader Winston Peters' full State of the Nation speech

  • 17/03/2024

Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters has delivered his State of the Nation speech on Sunday afternoon.

The speech was delivered at a public meeting in Palmerston North's Convention Centre.

His full speech is below - or watch it in the video player above.

"State of the Nation - We Got Back Up Again"

Good afternoon.

Thank you for, in your very busy lives, turning up to this meeting today.

On October 14th last year New Zealanders overwhelmingly voted for change. That is exactly what this new government is bringing. 

New Zealand First campaigned to 'take back our country' and stop the disastrous economic and social path New Zealand was on. In government, and pulling back the curtain in the first three months, has shown our country to be in a much worse state than too many politicians and observers understood in 2023.

Today in the Sunday Star Times, journalist and former advisor to the Labour Government, Vernon Small, refers to the 'present government facing a fiscal hole' of $5.6 billion.

He's right of course, but he's wrong when he said that last year politicians were warned of that.

Only one political party in the 2023 campaigned to alert New Zealanders as to how bad things were. New Zealand First pointed out where optimistic predictions of others were false - such as the 'House Buyers Tax', and taxing on overseas online gambling.

The Labour Government Failures

There is no sugar-coating it.

We inherited a broken economy, a fractured society, and a country on a road to social disaster. That road was paved with the breathtaking naivety and incompetence from a lost Labour government. After the 2020 election, and without a handbrake, Labour cared more about 'feelings' and 'ideology' than the duty to competently govern our country. 

New Zealand's debt ballooned, there were multiple fiscal policies with no allocated funding, the insidious creep of racist co-governance had spread throughout legislation and the public sector. Not just ideological theory, it was race-based theory - where some people's DNA made them better than others. The left had simply run roughshod over society and the people of New Zealand with ideas and plans they had never campaigned on.

Time for Reflection

Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot fix this country until we acknowledge what is wrong with it.

Labour has left us a folio of failures and barrage of broken promises:

  • A crumbling, underfunded, overwhelmed Health System.

An education system that has seen:

  • a record number of children failing basic standards and truancy rate,
  • an unmanageable number of schools without adequate classrooms, and
  • many in the teaching force under enormous strain.

A Defence Force that had lost more than a third of its personnel over the past three years.

An undermanned Police Force:

  • haemorrhaging officers to Australia,
  • massive shortages in recruitment,
  • massive increases in crime, and
  • youth ramraids and violence that is simply out of control.

Gang numbers that ballooned over the past three years.

A cost of living crisis.

A housing crisis with skyrocketing prices and unprecedented numbers living in emergency hotels. Remember the Labour promise 100,000 new houses in ten years?

A rate of child poverty even higher than when in 2021 Jacinda Ardern made herself the 'Minister of Child Poverty'.

A mental health system that has seen more and more mainly young people suffering with no respite.

Crumbling basic infrastructure around the country with no plan, no funding, and no idea.

An unprecedented, uncontrollable level of new migrants entering our country - over 133,000 net entering in 2023 alone - that's more than the population of Dunedin coming into our country in just twelve months last year. 

Where was the funding and plan for any sort of infrastructure to cope with such numbers coming into New Zealand?

  • Health Infrastructure
  • Education Infrastructure
  • Housing Infrastructure
  • Where were these utilities for such a massive immigration programme?

Ladies and gentlemen, if you need any more evidence of Labour not giving a damn about ordinary people's needs just take a look at that policy - all talk about humanity and kindness and no action.

Labour left large numbers of people ostracised, demonised, shutdown and shutout, ignored and cancelled - all because those people fought for their right to say 'no, we disagree.'

Well, at the election, voters did disagree, in a massive, historic repudiation of Labour.

The Lost Labour Party

On the 14th October last year the people of New Zealand voted for change, although it seems some in the media and the opposition parties refuse to accept the result. 

On more than one occasion Chris Hipkins and other Labour MPs have tried to explain that New Zealanders may have voted for change, but that they - 'didn't know what they were voting for'. 

The self-denial and arrogance to imply kiwis who voted for the new government and a new direction, are somehow too unaware to know why and who they voted for.

What is most astonishing is the lack of self-reflection of Labour MPs, who had an outright majority for three years, whilst treating New Zealanders with contempt.

We had three years of the dripping self-righteous moral high-horse - where they were right and everyone else was wrong. 

They made decisions, many in secret, echoing a Machiavellian-like approach to governing -

"We who have the power are always right;

the weaker is always wrong"

and that "the ends justify the means". 

The problem for Labour was that there were no 'ends' because they had no concept of where they were going - the hapless freight train ran out of tracks. And the 'means' only exposed an unheralded level of contempt. 

Ladies and gentlemen, there's no-one more expert on Labour's contempt for democracy than the person you're listening to right now.

Having governed with former Prime Minister Helen Clark, one can say that there are light-years between her and the last two Labour Leaders in their most basic understanding of democracy.

Right now, in March 2024, they are hellbent in a race to the bottom of the political wilderness with the Māori Party and the Greens. 

In other words, these three parties are arguing over 'who can be most culturally woke and go the furthest to the left'. 

Months into being in opposition, many still remain blind to the fact that the 'leftist groupthink' in their government, is the rod they have made for their own backs. 

Labour has deserted the traditional blue-collar workers of New Zealand.

The 'slow boil' movement of the party to the far left has caused a huge number of longtime Labour voters to feel abandoned by a party that once stood for the 'ordinary hard-working kiwi'. 

Instead, Labour now seem to care more about leftwing 'social justice' issues, ideological crusades, and woke cultural Marxism. The very same failings and racial obsessions of the Māori Party and the Greens.

The once great Labour Party of Savage and Fraser, has turned into the 'Party of Moral Outrage and Political Inertia'.

The Media

As New Zealand First leader, in an article written not so long ago about the state of our media we said this:

New Zealand First has always held the view that the 'fourth estate' is essential to any successful functioning democracy. 

But it's not just the existence of the fourth estate that is essential. It is the need of a fourth estate that is impartial, politically neutral, fair, and objective.

These are the qualities and attributes that the public expect of an effective media in any free society - something that is lacking in much of the media landscape today.

The revelation that Newshub is set to close, as well as job losses from TVNZ, is obviously devastating for those who will lose their jobs, but it is also seriously concerning for the robustness of our local media landscape.

One of those reasons is the increased lack of trust in New Zealand's media that has seen much of the public actively avoid engaging with them.

The impartiality of media should be the foundation of its reporting, but in the main, it has morphed over the past few years to rely on opinion, narrative, agendas, and click bait. 

Over the past four years the sign up of media outlets to receive $55 million of public funding through the Public Interest Journalism Fund has cemented that mistrust from the public for obvious reasons - most of which, it seems, is lost on the very media outlets that received those funds.

It is a plain fact that in order for media organisations to be eligible for funding they had to sign up to certain criteria and conditions - including reciting certain narratives of the Labour government at the time.

Jacinda Ardern herself said when addressing the issue of alternate or dissenting views about Covid-19 - "We had to act so we made it a priority to establish a Public Interest Journalism Fund to help our media continue to produce stories that keep New Zealanders informed." i.e. funding media to promote a government narrative - the 'single source of truth'.

One of those conditions was based on a purely political view that is not supported by many in New Zealand or political parties. 

It stateed that the media organisation must "actively promote the principles of Partnership, Participation and Active Protection under Te Tiriti o Waitangi acknowledging Māori as a Te Tiriti partner."

If they didn't sign up to this condition, they wouldn't get the money.

How can a politically neutral and independent media organisation give balanced political commentary, analysis, and in particular 'opinions', when this was the basis of the funds they received for their very survival?

This was the sinister seed that provided the platform for inevitable political bias.

It created a media environment where certain leftwing political narratives and agendas seeped into much of what the media presented to the public - where any opposing views were shutdown, cancelled, and labelled as 'far right' or 'fringe'.

The landscape of mainstream media is in a dramatic process of change. That is an undeniable fact. The current situation has highlighted that the mainstream media need serious self-reflection.

We are in need of a robust fourth estate in our democracy more desperately than ever. But one that focusses on 'thinking news, not breaking news'. 

The Election

The new coalition government faces massive challenges. 

While there is much wrong with New Zealand today, there is nothing that cannot be fixed by what is right with New Zealand today. With the right polices, the right attitude, and above all the right commitment, we can secure a much better future.

New Zealand First campaigned for a full two years before the election, packing halls around the country, talking to the people, listening to the people, and with your help we made it back into government.

Our campaign message was for voters to join us to 'Take Back Our Country' - and that's what we intend to do.

Where we as New Zealanders take back our country to where we once were - the number one democracy in the world. Number one economy in the world. And where we were the envy of others for our egalitarianism, unity, and national pride.

We are the Party that is bringing steel to our government through the hard times, and above all experience and common sense.

We have highly experienced team of Ministers and MPs in Shane Jones, Casey Costello, Mark Patterson, Jenny Marcroft, Jamie Arbuckle, Andy Foster, and Tanya Unkovich.

New Zealand First Coalition Agreement

The coalition agreement New Zealand First fought for, is the blueprint for the changes that New Zealand First will make as part of this coalition government.

Throughout the campaign, we heard what our supporters wanted and what our country needed us to deliver in the new government with a new direction.

To list just a few:

For our Economy, Infrastructure, and Cost of Living:

  • Establish an inquiry into banking competition.
  • Strengthen the powers of the Grocery Commissioner.
  • Establish a National Infrastructure Agency.
  • Establish a Regional Infrastructure Fund - creating jobs and much needed infrastructure around our country.
  • Investigate the reopening of Marsden Point Refinery.

For restoring Law and Order on our streets:

  • Training 500 new frontline police.
  • Introduce measures designed to tackle youth crime.
  • Amend the Sentencing Act to ensure appropriate consequences for criminals - putting the rights of victims before the rights of offenders.

In Education and Health:

  • Refocus the curriculum on academic achievement and not ideology, including the removal and replacement of gender, sexuality, and relationship-based education guidelines.
  • Repeal the Therapeutic Products Act 2023.
  • Fund Gumboot Friday
  • Ensure Plunket is funded to do its job properly.

For our Seniors:

  • Keep the superannuation age at 65.
  • Upgrade the Super Gold Card and Veterans Card.

For strengthening our Democracy and Freedoms:

  • Ensure publicly funded sporting bodies support fair competition that is not compromised by rules relating to gender.
  • Legislate to make English an official language of New Zealand.
  • Protect freedom of speech by ruling out the introduction of hate speech legislation.
  • End all Covid-19 vaccine mandates still in operation.
  • Ensure a full scale, wide ranging, independent inquiry into the Covid pandemic - widening the Terms of Reference, led by the right people, to ensure New Zealand gets real answers.
  • Ensure a ' National Interest Test' is undertaken before New Zealand accepts any agreements from the UN and its agencies.
  • Remove co-governance from the delivery of public services.
  • Stop all work on He Puapua.
  • Amend the Waitangi Tribunal legislation.
  • Amend the Marine and Coastal Area Act - which no has over 600 claims for New Zealand's coastal environment. 

These are only some of what we have cemented in our agreement. And many are already completed, or work is already well underway.

We have a lot to accomplish in this term through our coalition agreement that was designed to turn this country around.

Developing an Economic Plan

For far too long New Zealand's economy has been the victim of ideological dogma. If anyone doubts that have a look at how far this country has declined as opposed to for example Australia. 

Forty years ago, New Zealand had an economic far-right revolution while next door in Australia, a government of the same ilk, Australia's Labour, went down the pathway of 'incremental change for the better'. 

The result: Australia grew in real terms 35% larger in their economy than New Zealand. 

But this obvious fact still blinds many New Zealand commentators, as to why they were wrong back then, and are still wrong today about how New Zealand should go forward.

Look overseas at the successful economies of the Nordic countries, or like Singapore, Taiwan, or Ireland.

But many of these countries are small or have few natural resources at all. But they all have an economic plan where their people are their number one resource.

Where education is critical, where they employ incubators for innovation and social mobility, where they have taxation incentives for real business growth to attract investment into the right areas, and where their primary focus of expenditure is on wealth creation, production and exports, not consumption - or 'here today gone tomorrow'.

An Inflection Election

Before the election last year we were campaigning saying that it was an 'inflection election'. There was no doubt that if we didn't get it right, with a choice of a new government, with New Zealand First at the heart of that government, our country was on a pathway of economic, social, and cultural disaster.

And in government when we pulled back the curtain to see what Labour had left us to deal with, there is no doubt that New Zealand made the right choice. 

New Zealanders voted for change. For a new direction. And they knew what that change meant - despite what Mr Hipkins, the Labour Party, the Maori Party and the Greens might want to believe. 

New Zealand First has come back into government after being written off and ignored. We made it back, with your support, because we bring steel to New Zealand's cause. We bring steel to our government. 

We stood for change and a chance to make it count for all New Zealanders, with the values and principles that we once had that made us the greatest country to live in.

We have this real chance to "Take Back Our Country".   

Demolishing the Racist Myth

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a university city, where every year of late students are taught that the Treaty of Waitangi was a partnership between the signatories. 

That misconstruction, of what happened in February 1840, is a recent one. 

A simple agreement between the signatories at Waitangi on 6th February 1840 could not have been a partnership.

Why? Well, if no one was, on the 5th of February 1840, whether in England or the far flung reaches of the British Empire, in partnership with Queen Victoria, then how could the Māori be in such a partnership one day later?

The protagonists of the Treaty of Waitangi being an equal partnership, have never, can never, and will never, answer that very simple question.

And until they do, they are simply showering shibboleths of deceit.

After Waitangi Day, the ownership of land for all landowners, including Māori landowners, was guaranteed, and only the Crown had the right of purchase. Māori understood that back then, because the Waitangi event, was something the Māori population had asked for.

We became British citizens, we would be Rule of Law beneficiaries, under Crown protection from other outside rapacious colonial powers.

Today what is being taught at universities on this matter, denies the simple fact that neither Queen Victoria, nor her successors, could constitutionally enter with their subjects, a partnership.

And from this academic deceit and legal misconstruction have come all manner of demands based on ethnicity or race. Inevitably, to the benefit of a self-appointed Māori elite, and again inevitability at the enormous cost of ordinary Māori.

Māori concerns for housing, health, education, and first world wages, get sidelined when political priorities suffer a deliberate misfocus. 


We must remember, New Zealand is the beneficiary of Western values, democracy, and the rule of law. And the advancement and enhancement of those principles have only occurred in those societies that have united together as one people - and who celebrate their nationhood instead of perpetuating division.

With cooperation, conciliation, inclusivity and teamwork, our country can make it out of a crisis to a better future for every New Zealander.

We can become, again, the envy of the world.

Remember, politicians are not meant to be your masters, they are meant to be your servants. 

Too much of our country was left in a real mess. That's because the people who were suffering were not the ones who caused the mess. 

Our once great society was built on hard work and a fair go for everyone. Bold steps are needed now to lift our country back where it belongs. Countries that do well, work well as a team, and everyone has a part to play. 

We have a plan. 

We now have hope.

We together can change New Zealand. 

We will rebuild our country, for the many, not the few.

We will reconstruct our economy for every New Zealander, not just a select self-appointed elite few.

That is our vision, that is our commitment, that is our commission.

To protect and save New Zealand.

We got knocked down, but we got up again - and nothing is going to stop us now.