The election race is getting closer and is set to get grubbier as two polls show National's easy ride to a third term is not such a sure thing - even before the Dirty Politics scandal takes effect.
But with the political firefight over author Nicky Hager's expose of alleged Government dirty tricks intensifying yesterday, election policies such as the Greens' plan to sock the wealthiest New Zealanders with a new top tax rate risk getting lost in the noise.
One News and 3 News issued their first election campaign polls last night, with both showing National down by two points.
The One News-Colmar Brunton poll had National at 50 per cent, while 3 News-Reid research had them at 47.5 per cent. While One News also had Labour down 2 points at 26 per cent, leader David Cunliffe had something to cheer about, with 3 News putting his party 2.3 per cent higher at 29 per cent.
Both polls were conducted in the week before Hager's book was released and in the aftermath of NZ First leader Winston Peters' widely criticised "two wongs" joke. But far from NZ First being hurt, the party's support was up, hitting the 5 per cent MMP threshold, according to One News, and rising within spitting distance to 4.6 per cent, according to 3 News.
The heat is intensifying. Photos / NZ Herald
NZ First's improving fortunes raise the prospect Winston Peters will again have the role of kingmaker after the September 20 election.
The poll results have come as the Government and its blogger allies Cameron Slater and David Farrar ramped up their counter-attack on Hager and his credibility.
Hager is already under pressure over how he came into possession of thousands of emails and other messages the book is based on and which he acknowledges were hacked from the computer of Slater, who write the Whale Oil blog.
Farrar yesterday confirmed to the Herald he would complain to the police about how material used by his polling company found its way into Hager's book. He told the Herald he believed polling scripts were being supplied by an employee to Hager.
Slater yesterday made more forceful claims that the thousands of his emails and other messages which Hager's book is based on were hacked from his computer by Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom. In a post, he linked the hacking of his computer, the burglary of National MP Mark Mitchell's offices, the "theft" of material from Farrar's company and two more burglaries to Mr Dotcom.
Mr Dotcom said Slater's post was "designed to shift focus away from Slater's own dirty dealings on behalf of the National Party".
"I had nothing to do with any alleged hacking. And while we're on the subject, I had nothing to do with Nicky Hager's book, either."
Hager told TVNZ's Q+A programme that Mr Dotcom was "absolutely categorically" not the source of information he had received.
Prime Minister John Key, meanwhile, told reporters that Hager "isn't actually denying he's written a book off stolen material".
He again said he did not plan to look further into the book's central claims that his former staffer Jason Ede covertly accessed Labour's IT systems or that Justice Minister Judith Collins abused her position to pass on information to Slater to fuel his attacks on political opponents.
Mr Key did not wish to know the identity of the staffer National has acknowledged accessed Labour's computers and said that "most of the stuff about Judith Collins has actually been proven to be factually incorrect".
• Check out the full coverage of Hager's book here.