New Zealand needs to investigate the re-establishment of a state insurer to provide cover at a fair price rather than at the "rip off" rates imposed by foreign companies, NZ First Leader Winston Peters says.

Mr Peters kicked off his party's annual conference in Christchurch yesterday with a dig at insurers who had collected premiums for decades, but dragged their feet when called on to pay out on earthquake claims.

"There are inordinate delays here in this city which in other economies like Japan would be seen to be unconscionable and we want to know why central government hasn't taken action far faster than this," he told reporters yesterday.

About 170 party faithful gathered for the meeting at Addington Raceway were yesterday considering policy remits including one to establish "Kiwi Insurance" - a government-backed insurer.


Mr Peters said his party would push for an inquiry into the inordinately high profits being made by foreign owned banks and insurers in this country. The inquiry would also look at the viability of a state insurance operation similar to that which was set up following the Napier earthquake 81 years ago.

"The very same circumstances that existed then exist now."

He said Prime Minister John Key's Government had not been "showing the leadership it should have shown, or has given the necessary directives to the insurance industry" over the city's recovery from the 2011 quakes.

Meanwhile New Zealanders across the country were being tapped to meet quake related payouts through higher premiums.

"We've worn it nationally, it's a rip off."

This weekend's conference would see the party ready itself for a snap election which Mr Peters sees as likely. He said the Government was destabilised by the resignations of support partners United Future's Peter Dunne and Act's John Banks of their ministerial portfolios, and Mr Banks' "untenable position" as he faced electoral finance fraud charges.

The economy was "very uncertain as well" with the prospect the US economic problems would again affect the global outlook.

"We're readying ourselves in every sense to be going for an early election somewhere in April next year."

That involved altering the party's constitution to allow it to "short circuit" the selection process for candidates if required.

Mr Peters gives his keynote address today where he promises to make a "significant announcement" about economic policy and to unveil a strategy on retirement savings which he indicated would counter calls for an increase to the age of eligibility for NZ superannuation.