Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National's Judith Collins went head-to-head during a 90-minute second leaders' TV debate in Auckland last night.
Here's what the Herald's experts made of the debate.
Audrey Young, NZ Herald political editor
It may not have been politics at its best but the second leaders' debate was brilliant television.
Jacinda Ardern regained her mojo.
Both leaders were relaxed and spontaneous, fiery, funny, authentic — and occasionally rude.
Collins unforgivably called the Prime Minister "dear" when she lost patience with Ardern's slightly demanding question to her over climate change: "What's your plan?" she said twice.
"What for dear?" They sparred with each other but Collins used most issues to make hard-hitting points that cut through Ardern's tendency to waffle.
When Ardern said Collins was not willing to change with the world, Collins quipped that if Ardern was going to use Collins' age against her, she was going to use her experience.
Ardern again excelled on questions to do with Covid management.
Both leaders were much better than in the first debate but Collins was quicker, clearer and made greater impact on most issues.
Simon Wilson, NZ Herald senior writer
Jacinda Ardern was excellent on the Covid response but you know what? Judith Collins came out beaming and got stuck in. Every time Ardern tried to say something, there Collins was, crushing it. And you know what, did it even matter that some of the crushing was a little odd? Collins said house prices ("some of them") should come down. And it was "absolutely outrageous" that corporates who boosted profits with the wage subsidy and layoffs won't pay the subsidy back. Even though it was immoral but not illegal.
Splendid stuff, in my view, but perhaps not if you're a centre-right voter. Was that just liberal populism?
But you know what? David Seymour got told he can be deputy PM, which isn't at all an odd thing to say in public, even if Seymour will have a bevy of completely untested MPs sitting next to him.
Then Ardern warmed up, avoided the populist bait herself (Pharmac decisions should not be made by the PM) and got in some good laughs. Collins called her "dear" but Ardern didn't explode.
Fans of both should have been pleased. But you know what, I'm sick of hearing you know what.
Claire Trevett, NZ Herald senior political writer
Winner: Collins (just)
Judith Collins won on pure entertainment value, and for actually answering most questions put to her in a straight-up fashion.
On substance, the pair were evenly matched overall — Jacinda Ardern had a clear advantage on Covid-19, but Collins had a field day with KiwiBuild. Both put up good counters to the other's tax policies.
It was a much closer run thing than the first debate — Ardern clearly decided if you can't beat them, join them, and as a result sounded less like a Labour Party pamphlet.
Both said things in the heat of the moment that they may regret in hindsight: Collins gunning it for the wage subsidy, and Ardern on the Green School funding.
Favourite quotes: Judith Collins' meat soliloquy: "I'm not going to tell people when they can eat their meat. I'm not into communism or fascism. It's their money, their meat, their bodies. Give people a bit of freedom." Jacinda Ardern on climate change, saying the world was changing but Collins was not changing with it: "It's not age, it's ideology and yours is outdated."
Fran O'Sullivan, NZME, head of business
Judith Collins again talked a much better game than Jacinda Ardern.
Punchy. On point. But at times over-confident. To the point where accuracy deserted her — which is where she lost points.
Fact-checking was not moderator Paddy Gower's forte. But he did run a strong debate.
Irritatingly, Ardern frequently looked at her notes and resorted to too much flannel. When it came to serious stuff like the two leaders' approaches to a hypothetical Covid-19 outbreak in Christchurch, we learnt both would move to lockdown. But Collins would be more flexible elsewhere in New Zealand and favoured moving to the Taiwanese approach.
When it came to the zingers they were even: "If Jacinda Ardern is going to use my age against me, I am happy to use my experience" (Collins).
"It was not age, Judith. I am talking about ideology and yours was outdated." (Ardern).
Collins lost points with a matronising response to Ardern's question on her plan on climate change. "What for, dear?" — seriously?
Favourite line: Collins, asked whether she would coalesce with Winston Peters: "As a Christian I do believe in miracles, but he isn't one of them."