New Zealand First leader Winston Peters today announced that his party aimed to increase the minimum wage to $20 an hour over three years.

Mr Peters made the statement during a political rally at the Red Square in central Tauranga which drew about 400 people.

Mr Peters arrived to rapturous applause, despite being 15 minutes late. He apologised for the delay after he was held up, first by fog in Auckland and then while driving to Tauranga.

Mr Peters spoke for about half an hour and was loud, passionate and had plenty of one-liners, which were almost always greeted by laughter, agreement and clapping from the crowd.

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He said his party would increase the minimum wage to $20 an hour because that was what people needed to be able to live and look after their children.

"We want proper wages so people can be independent from the taxpayer, independent from welfare, restore pride in their lives."

The party would introduce a tax package for New Zealand employers and businesses to negate the increased cost of paying the extra wages, he said.

"We're going to cut employer and business taxes so they can pay proper wages in this country. That's our plan."

Mr Peters also said the party would take GST off basic essential foods - not restaurant and takeaway meals - and got a big cheer from the crowd.

"That will bring relief to hundreds of thousands of people," he said.

The cost of removing GST on basic essential food was somewhere between $600 million and $700 million, Mr Peters said.

He put to the crowd: "That's not much is it?"

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There would also be a clampdown on tax evasion by multinationals, Mr Peters said.

He also found time to tell the crowd to disregard the media and the polls.

A huge crowd turned up in central Tauranga to hear New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speak. Photo/John Borren.
A huge crowd turned up in central Tauranga to hear New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speak. Photo/John Borren.

But the biggest noise and response came when Mr Peters outlined the party's stance on immigration.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are not against immigration," he started. There was a murmur from the crowd.

"My mother happens to be from a Scottish background, my father happens to be Maori. There's nobody perfect, as you well know," Mr Peters then joked. Laughter from the crowd this time.

"We're not against the Irish, the Chinese, the Japanese or anybody. But immigration should be on our terms, bringing people here highly skilled that we need, not who need us."

Applause, whistling from the crowd. A man yelled out: "Hear, hear, hear".

Mr Peters continued on that track.

"You're going to have to make up your mind in this election because I tell you, for 2017, if we don't change this around, there'll be no recovery from it," he said.

"I've seen countries that don't make a decision, where they go on a permanent slide.

"You think about it, I'm looking at people here today who were in this country, living and thriving when we were in the first three in the world. The very first three countries in the world was us."

Mr Peters later put questions to those in attendance.

"Do you want mass immigration and work visas of over 310,000 each year? Do you want that number?"

"No," echoed the crowd.

He continued: "Do you want to see a country that last year, in the last 12 months, sold 462,000 hectares of land into foreign ownership?"

"No," was the response again.

"Do you want to see a country where today whether or not you can access certain things depends on your race?"

"No," a few people said.

"In short," Mr Peters said, "today right here and around the country, the ownership of water and the control of it is being determined on the basis of race. Do you want a country like that?"

"No," more people this time said.

"Well, if you don't want a country like that ... and fourth, if you don't want the hard-working, grind and sweating people of this country to work hard to save money being put down and forgotten, then you've got one option," he said.

"If you've had enough, party vote New Zealand First."

More applause with some people shouting: "Yeah, yeah".

After his speech, Mr Peters answered questions for another half an hour.

Meanwhile, during his speech, he also announced for the first time the New Zealand First candidate for Bay of Plenty, businessman Lester Gray.

Mr Gray, talking with the Bay of Plenty Times after the event, said it was a "fantastic" turnout.

"We're experiencing this all over the country, wherever we go. There's a real mood for change in the country and it's fantastic to get the people coming out to support us."

Mr Gray said there is an underlying tone in New Zealand where people just cannot get ahead.

Mr Peters was expected to also visit Bob Owen Retirement Village in Bethlehem, Tauranga, this afternoon.