Fonterra needs to be asked how many farmers the dairying giant expects will commit suicide this year, Winston Peters says.
"A whole lot of farmers out there are hard against the wall and suicide is what a lot of them will do," Peters told media after opening his party's election-year conference in South Auckland.
About 300 delegates at the Vodafone Events Centre were played the party's new campaign video, which will be officially released tomorrow and features footage from Peters' recent "campaign for the regions".
In it, Peters is pictured drinking Lion Red and watching rugby, while a John Farnham song plays and he tells viewers the public is sick of hearing and seeing "fake news".
Peters covered a range of topics in a later media stand-up, and had a dig at Labour leader Andrew Little, saying as a list MP he will be out of Parliament after September's election if Labour drop a few points below current polling.
Mental health campaigner Mike King is a guest speaker at the conference, and Peters said something needed to be done about New Zealand's suicide rate.
"It's big up north, and with the slide over to drugs, and it is big in parts of this country. I mean seriously big. A lot of people are really concerned about it...we can't go on like this with the worst suicide rate in the world."
Peters said wider economic problems were behind much of the suffering.
"It concerns me, economically-speaking, nobody has ever asked Fonterra what are you calculating will be your suicide rate of farmers this year? Someone should ask them that sort of stuff.
"A whole lot of farmers out there are hard against the wall and suicide is what a lot of them will do...why don't we get some facts out there rather than, this is all very good, it's all fantastic."
Asked by the Herald if he was saying Fonterra needed to do more around mental health support, Peters said he wasn't "blaming Fonterra for that outcome".
"I'm blaming them for the hopeless non-added value strategy they have pursued so they went down the path of this lowest-common denominator value - namely milk powder - and allowed the infant formula business to be controlled in the space of five years by the Chinese."
The New Zealand Herald is running a special series on youth suicide called Break The Silence. It aims to raise awareness of our suicide rates, to start a national conversation about the issue and to encourage young people to ask for help.
PETERS ATTACKS 'FAKE NEWS' IN CAMPAIGN VIDEO
About 300 delegates at the Vodafone Events Centre were played the new campaign video to open the conference, which will be officially released tomorrow and features footage from Peters' recent "campaign for the regions".
A blend of shots of Peters addressing voters in various towns, watching rugby and drinking beer played to a background of John Farnham's You're the Voice.
"We can't list you all the towns and cities we've been...we have taken the road less travelled or never travelled at all," Peters says on the video. "We have travelled to the backbone of our country and heard people."
On the video Peters also says the public is sick of reading and hearing "fake news" - a phrase frequently used by US President Trump.
Afterwards, Peters was asked about his regional campaigning, and said the plan was to "bury our opponents with activity" ahead of the September 23 election.
The National Party was taken to court after a 2014 campaign advert was alleged to have featured an unlicensed version of Eminem's Lose Yourself. Peters said his new video wouldn't run into the same problems because it wasn't a campaign advert.
"I can ring up Johnny Farnham in Melbourne - I can't ring up his manager because his manager is in prison, by the way - but I can ring up Johnny Farnham and ask him. But I'd have to do that if I'm using it as a commercial, and I'm not."
New Zealand First is riding high with most polls indicating the party will hold the balance of power after the election. The picture isn't as good for Labour, with its own internal polling - leaked to Newshub - putting the party at 26 per cent.
"If they fall another three or four points, Andrew won't be in Parliament," Peters said. He declined to say whether he believed NZ First could overtake Labour.
"We certainly have overtaken the Greens, and a long, long time ago."
Peters also indicated a rail link to Northport near Whangarei would be a priority if NZ First was in government, but stopped short of calling it a bottom line.
Shane Jones, the former Labour MP now standing for NZ First in Whangarei, said the link would be a massive boost for the region, which had been badly neglected by the National Government.
The right Resource Management Act zoning requirements were already in place.
"For a lot of Whangarei businesses, they have hoped for so long and those hopes have been dashed over the last nine years. They are going to seize this with both hands."
Peters quit smoking recently and after being asked why jested it was because he realised members of the media were so concerned about his health.
"I just decided one day, 'that's it'," Peters said, saying the government's tax hikes weren't behind his decision.
"Out there hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders are waiting on every word out of this conference for a better tomorrow, and somebody decides the most important thing right now is whether Winston Peters has a cigarette."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.
If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:
DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234
There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.