National Party leader Judith Collins has finally launched her party's campaign today - but the lead-up was blighted by a torpedo from Labour.
National's original planned campaign launch had to be cancelled after the second outbreak of Covid-19 emerged just days before it.
Collins instead launched the campaign online - from Avalon studios near Wellington.
See Judith Collin's full campaign launch speech below
But much of her thunder was stolen by the fact her finance spokesman, Paul Goldsmith, was forced to admit his team had made a $4 billion mistake in the party's calculations.
"We make mistakes from time to time," he said, adding that "I never claimed to be perfect".
Before Collins joined the stage, National played a teaser-trailer – complete with an epic backing track and a voice over – for Collins with her talking about the current state of the country.
She called it a "bittersweet day," given the party's campaign launch had to be virtual, but pointed the blame on the Government for not doing enough to keep Covid-19 out of the country.
"I do not think the enormity of what is in front of us has yet sunk in for many New Zealanders," she said.
"The economic morphine pump is running low, and the pain is very real."
She took aim at Labour, calling its plan "short-term" and "low-value".
"Labour's erratic, unplanned governance and lazy incompetence are what we have come to expect."
She said National would leave a complete upgrade of New Zealand's transport, education and healthcare infrastructure for the next generation.
Collins teased policies she will announce this week.
"In the days ahead I'll announce policy that will do even more to springboard businesses out of these difficult times, further boosting long-term employment."
She finished by pitching directly to voters.
"Leading New Zealand through this deep recession will require a National government. One that is bold, competent, and decisive – not prevaricating and weak."
The lead-up to the launch was hit after Labour's Grant Robertson revealed a $4 billion hole in National's economic plan.
National's finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith has copped the mistake on the chin, saying it was "irritating" but did not mean the whole plan was flawed.
Speaking to media before National's official campaign launch, Goldsmith apologised for the error, calling it "irritating".
"This is an irritating mistake, we missed it and our external checker missed it as well – that's a mistake."
He said he had apologised to Collins.
"We make mistakes from time to time," he said, later adding that "I never claimed to be perfect".
"These things happen – they're irritating, [but] we move on."
The error means National's debt repayment plans have been changed, It now plans to have debt down to 36 per cent of GDP by 2034, instead of the 35 per cent it promised on Friday.
The error would not affect National's plans to offer tax cuts, Goldsmith said.
This morning, Robertson accused National of not properly costing its policies.
The error was in regards to the savings National would make by cancelling its contributions to the NZ Super Fund.
National's economic plan said scrapping these contributions would save $19.1 billion – but Robertson said Treasury's estimates show the Government would have been contributing $15 billion over that time.
"National has used the wrong numbers," Robertson said.
Goldsmith said the party had used numbers from the original budget forecasts, rather than the ones from the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (Prefu).
"It changes the debt target in 15 years by 1 per cent," Goldsmith said.
That 1 per cent amounts to $4 billion.
He went on to point out that National's error actually showed that Labour had "quietly cut the Super Fund to reduce debt, which they didn't announce and we missed".
"We are surprised, given their criticism of us for suspending payments to the Super Fund."
Judith Collins' full campaign launch speech:
Thank you for your kind welcome. I am so proud to lead this great National Party in our first-ever virtual campaign launch.
It is a bittersweet day. We should all be here together.
But we all know why we aren't.
The rhetoric never matches the reality with the current Government, and New Zealanders have again had our lives turned upside down.
If Ministers had kept their eye on the ball and ensured the testing they claimed was happening was, actually, happening we would not have had a resurgence of Covid-19.
If the contact tracing and testing programme had been up to scratch, Auckland's Covid-19 resurgence would have been stamped out by now.
But all the same, I am thrilled and excited to be with you all to kick off National's campaign for Election 2020.
Let me start by thanking all of you.
Our strength is our people. The many thousands of volunteers and supporters who know what improves the lives of New Zealanders.
For some weeks, you, our volunteers, have been pounding the pavements – when you've been allowed to – you've been stuffing envelopes and you've been knocking on doors.
You've been talking to other New Zealanders on their phones or their porches about their hopes, their fears and ideas.
Your work is what will get us over the line in just four weeks' time. We cannot do it without you.
Aside from today's virtual format, this speech is unlike any a National Party leader has had to give in living memory.
That's not something I say lightly.
However, I do not think the enormity of what is in front of us has yet sunk in for many New Zealanders.
For the past six months we've looked out for one another in ways we didn't expect we'd ever have to.
Everything we anticipated has been torn up and thrown in the air. But in our uniquely Kiwi way, we've made the best of it.
Now the real challenge lies ahead.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me be straight with you – because you know I'm not one to sugar-coat things.
We are facing an economic crisis the likes of which we have never seen before.
Government lockdowns have crippled business confidence and cash flow up and down the country.
People are losing their jobs at the fastest rate in a generation and many thousands more job losses are still to come, unless there is policy change.
The first full week of Auckland's second lockdown saw 400 New Zealanders lose their jobs every single day.
In just a fortnight, 5000 Kiwis found themselves joining the now 220,000 people on unemployment benefits.
These numbers don't count the many people who have had their hours cut or are taking a wage cut, nor do they count the many small business owners who are seeing their greatest asset eroded.
A wage subsidy made sense as a measure to support workers through a lockdown, but everyone knows it is not a long-term solution.
The economic morphine pump is running low, and the pain is very real.
As much as Jacinda Ardern tried to paint one week's economic activity in Auckland off the back of a strict lockdown as a sign of positivity – a tortured piece of spin if ever there was one – there is no prospect of a rapid return to business as usual.
So, I'm sure you're all asking, what's the plan?
Let's start with what it's not.
Labour's approach is higher taxes, higher power prices and a more restrictive environment for the traditional drivers of our economy. They will make it harder to be in business.
The Labour way is short-term, low-value, make-work schemes – like pest and weed control. Laudable as these are, they're not the answer to economic recovery.
Labour's erratic, unplanned governance and lazy incompetence are what we have come to expect.
This all comes at a time when the people who employ New Zealanders need to be unleashed to deliver long-term recovery and prosperity.
You know from bitter experience that Labour cannot deliver on its promises. You know that Labour always commits billions of dollars to low-value projects that will ultimately fail.
And you know that Labour cannot be trusted on taxes – you know that.
It does not have to be like that. There is a better way.
This is about the future. Only National has a plan to grow the economy.
National's economic plan is centred on building infrastructure and getting rid of the RMA. Our plan will deliver real jobs by creating the conditions to let that happen.
National's economic plan lets small business owners do what they do best – grow businesses and employ other New Zealanders.
This crisis is a time to build critical infrastructure. This includes rebuilding our schools, and upgrading our hospitals.
Rather than accept intergenerational debt, let's build intergenerational assets.
This election will determine what sort of country the next generation and generations to follow will inherit. The legacy National will leave for the next generation is a complete upgrade of New Zealand's transport, education and healthcare infrastructure.
Government spending needs to be carefully managed, something you know National has an enviable track record of delivering. Because unlike Labour, we get stuff done.
Let's recap the investment highlights of our policy-heavy campaign.
National will deliver an utterly transformational programme to springboard growth. This includes a $31 billion upgrade to transport.
We will finally unclog our cities, prepare for future growth and we will improve economic productivity.
Among many projects – too many to list today – just in Auckland, we'll build a second harbour crossing; the East West link; a third and then a fourth rail line.
We'll duplicate Wellington's Mt Victoria and Terrace tunnels; unclogging daily congestion that spreads for kilometres in both directions.
We will deliver the $1.8 billion four-lane expressway from Christchurch to Ashburton that National started and Labour stopped.
We'll invest an additional $4.8 billion in school infrastructure. We'll fix our schools, provide additional classrooms and build new schools to drive our growing economy.
And we'll upgrade healthcare infrastructure as part of a health system that is modern, high-quality and available to all New Zealanders.
To get all these projects moving we'll finally do away with the RMA. It strangles development, just when we need it to do the opposite.
The RMA will be replaced with an Environmental Standards Act and a Planning and Development Act. These will deliver clarity and speed rather than the present murkiness, expense and delay.
All these things are huge commitments, but they're needed and they're needed now.
Above all, you can trust a National government I lead to borrow and invest wisely, putting New Zealand on a long-term track to pay down debt, greatly improving prospects for future generations.
We know how hard you've worked for the money we'll be investing, and we will treat your money with respect.
That is one reason National will establish an infrastructure bank, to ensure efficient financing of New Zealand's new and improved assets.
At this time more than ever it's important that we effectively manage the vast sums of debt being borrowed to re-ignite the economy post-Covid
This will help ensure the KiwiBuild and Auckland light rail disasters, where valuable time and huge amounts of your money were wasted, are not repeated.
Coming out of Covid-19 at pace means giving New Zealanders more chance to take advantage of the opportunities National will deliver. That's why I have announced massive tax relief for households and businesses.
This will give confidence to all New Zealanders. It puts more than $3000 – into the back pockets of average earners, just when they need it most.
It will help with pressing family expenses, and it will help retail, tourism and hospitality businesses get through the economic crisis.
As well as tax relief for households, we will also double the depreciation rate for businesses investing in new equipment and machinery. Bringing forward the amount businesses can claim will stimulate the economy by giving them the confidence to buy now and create new jobs now.
The Labour leader has described our plan to let you keep more of your money as "totally irresponsible". And that is just one major difference between us, and them.
We believe that the person earning the money owns the money. That government has a duty to use taxes wisely, to invest and to build.
You will not find a National government wasting taxpayers' money on expensive failures like KiwiBuild, light rail and a pet Green School.
Our policies will grow the economy, not the bureaucracy. National's policies will grow jobs, smart jobs, high-paying jobs.
And there's more to come.
In the days ahead I'll announce policy that will do even more to springboard businesses out of these difficult times, further boosting long-term employment.
National will create an environment that will see New Zealand finally reach its potential as a small technology powerhouse. We'll also announce policy that will keep New Zealanders safer in the Covid-19 environment.
National's vision and blueprint to grow New Zealand out of this recession is very clear. That's why I have one more sincere message today, for every New Zealand voter.
You do not want to find yourself in the middle of next year, having just lost your job, relying on a bunch of people with a track record of dithering and not delivering, and wishing that you had voted National.
Vote National, and I promise you my experienced team will deliver a proper plan for you, your family and New Zealand to prosper again.
We will keep New Zealand safe.
National is confident, future-focused, and excited by the possibility and opportunity ahead for this great country.
Leading New Zealand through this deep recession will require a National government. One that is bold, competent, and decisive – not prevaricating, and weak.
Only National has the vision and the plan.
With your help, I will be leading a National government after October 17.