National leader Christopher Luxon has taken a shot at "wasteful spending" by the Government, pointing to Three Waters, the TVNZ-Radio New Zealand merger, money for corporate welfare and light rail.
He addressed the media at the party's 2022 conference in Christchurch.
"There's a Government here that's wasting an awful amount of money, and a lot of dumb spending that's going on.
"There's an inordinate amount of government spending, wasteful spending, that's not delivering outcomes, and what we're saying is, look, we're much better economic managers than this Government. They don't have a clue about economic management. You've seen that this week with this cost of living payment."
He said the spending showed "a really terrible lack of fiscal responsibility and commercial control".
A core component of National's policy was inflation indexation, he said.
National wanted tax threshholds lined up with inflation "as a minimum", but whether they went further would depend on the economy next year.
He said he told media six or seven months ago the spending would need to be reigned in.
"This is a government spending $127 billion, that's $51 billion more than five years ago ... we've added 14,000 bureaucrats to this country.
"We've got a whole bunch of economic mismanagement going on that we need to be able to deal with.
"Really good" fiscal and financial discipline in the budgets was needed, he said.
"If you take healthcare at the moment, we have taken away all healthcare targets. Every single healthcare metric has gone backwards in the last five years."
As a result, Government was wasting money on restructuring the health system, centralising it and creating a "massive bureaucracy".
Luxon was asked whether it was also a waste of money to repeal changes the Government had already spent on.
"You ask us today where we sit right here, right now, where we'd make cuts ... those are the things that we'd focus on."
He said National was in "great shape". He pointed to the work of Mark Mitchell and Shane Reti among others, saying the party was looking good as they head into 2023.
Earlier at the conference, deputy leader Nicola Willis said, "strong team - here we are," as she welcomed a handful of her caucus colleagues onto the stage.
The quip was a reference to the much-lampooned billboards used during the party's 2020 election campaign. That year, the electorate clearly was not convinced by the "strong team" label (Labour even commissioned polling to prove it). This year, polls suggest the electorate is starting to look at the blue team again.
Willis has taken the spotlight on the first day at Christchurch's new Te Pae convention centre, with Luxon's main speech slated for tomorrow.
She tore into Labour on inflation, taxes, the cost of living, and labour laws.
Willis said she'd decided to start calling Labour's $350 cost of living payment "KiwiSpray".
"It's like KiwiBuild, only instead of being 99,000 houses short, it's 800,000 payments short," she said.
Of the Government's Fair Pay Agreements, its landmark labour market reforms, Willis said: "the 1970s have called and they want their policy back, Michael Wood".
Party conferences are about reconnecting with the party's base. And a bit of reconnection is probably due in the National Party - a lot has changed since then-leader Judith Collins held National's last party conference in Auckland a year ago.
Christopher Luxon's wife Amanda opened the conference this year, introducing her husband to the party.
Her story about him taking overnight flights to be at home to spend time with his children drew a warm response from the audience of around 650 party members.
"When he walked through that door, the children had his undivided attention," she said.
Christopher Luxon briefly took the stage, beckoning party figures, former presidents John Slater and Judy Kirk, members of the board, and members of the caucus to take to their feet for applause.
Much has been made of Luxon's faith, and his warm affinity with a crowd. His persistent calls for people to be "appreciated" did nothing to dampen comparisons of him with a preacher.
"Can you stand up, and we can appreciate you," Luxon said.
National is in the midst of a modernising project. Last week, it unveiled a new logo and colour palette that includes a blush of magenta bleeding into the traditional blue.
Willis' speech made three references to past National leaders Adam Hamilton and Sydney Holland.
Her first reference provided a helpful summation of the modern National Party.
"As our first Leader Adam Hamilton said when National was founded: "[National stands] for a reduction of taxation so that enterprise may be encouraged, industries established and living costs reduced," Willis said.
Not everything went to plan. Willis was meant to lead a panel with Andrew Bayly and Chris Bishop. When both men failed to appear on the stage at the conclusion of her speech, she told members they would break for morning tea early.
"You know how I was supposed to have two men on stage with me? Turns out one woman's enough," she joked.
As members began to leave to the foyer, she returned to the microphone and said it was actually too early to go to morning tea, then welcomed the panel to the stage.
Willis then apologised to her close friend, Bishop, who was not on the stage because he was outside appearing on Newshub's The Nation.
"I also want to apologise publicly for my friend Bish - he is representing National in an interview on The Nation and he's running late on that - I think I was a bit unkind," she said.
Bishop eventually wrapped up his interview and snuck onstage for the panel.
He talked up his colleagues, transport spokesman Simeon Brown and immigration spokeswoman Erica Stanford.
Bishop said Brown had built more kilometres of his daughter's toy train set than Labour had built of Auckland light rail, and Stanford understood more about New Zealand's migration settings with just one researcher, than Labour did with thousands of MBIE public servants.