Early voting starts today and National leader Bill English and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern were vying for attention of voters in the lead up - English by announcing sweeteners for first home buyers while Ardern held a massive rally to set out her top priorities if in Government.

That included banning foreign property buyers by the end of the year and lifting the minimum wage to $16.50.

The Electoral Commission is expecting as many as half of New Zealanders to vote in advance of election day on September 23 and that means the campaigns of all parties will lift the tempo after what has already been a gruelling three weeks.

Ardern set out her "First 100 Days" plans to a crowd of 1500 in Wellington, where well known local bands played together in an ensemble called Stardust - the word English has given to the excitement around Ardern.


Since taking over as leader in early August, Ardern has had all the momentum in the polls - overtaking National in the One News Colmar Brunton poll.

However, the latest Herald ZB Kantar TNS poll indicates English might not be quite done and dusted.

It shows almost half of New Zealanders (48 per cent) believe the country is heading in the right direction - up from 41 per cent in early July.

It was particularly high among Auckland voters - 51 per cent said New Zealand was heading in the right direction.

About one third believed it was going in the wrong direction - about the same as in July while 18 per cent were unsure. That compared to 27 per cent who were unsure in July.

That should be good news for English as it usually reflects a high level of confidence in the Government - and consequently wariness of change.

The online poll of 1000 people took place between August 30 and September 4 and has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.

The potential cost of change was the message English was trying to drive home in the lead up to early voting starting - pitching to voters' wallets by promoting tax cuts and criticising Labour for not setting out what new taxes it might impose and leaving it to a working group.


English's policy announcement at Hobsonville Pt yesterday was aimed at addressing one of National's Achilles' heels - housing affordability. He set out a $74 million a year plan for a $10,000 increase in Home Start grants for couples buying their first home and a $5000 increase for singles, saying it would help about 20,000 people with the problem of getting a deposit together.

Ardern said she would keep the Home Start grants, but not adopt National's proposed increases.

Ardern's first 100 Days plan was also aimed at addressing a perceived weakness - English's claim Labour had a "vague and confused" policy mix.

As well as the ban on foreign buyers, she promised immediate action on Labour's "families package" - including a universal payment for newborn babies - and on lifting the minimum wage to $16.50 and implementing the first stage of fees-free education for tertiary students.

Earlier in the day, Ardern had also been moved to tears at an event in Wellington to raise awareness of suicide where more than 600 pairs of shoes were set out to highlight the cost of lost lives.

English was accompanied by his son Xavier on the campaign trail and visited Sylvia Park mall before ending his day at a campaign event at the Viaduct for Auckland Central candidate Nikki Kaye - where he pointed out to the audience Kaye had beaten Ardern in the seat twice.

It was also a big weekend for the smaller parties - Green Party co-leader James Shaw also hauled in some star power when he unveiled the party's new climate change policy - Minuit performed and author Eleanor Catton was watching on.

That new policy would see the Emissions Trading Scheme replaced with a Kiwi Climate Fund which would charge polluters more but pay those who planted trees and give an annual dividend of $250 a year to New Zealanders.

NZ First leader Winston Peters on Saturday set out plans to soup up the Super GoldCard - and also had a harsh message for Labour on its uncertainty over tax, telling the Herald it could be a barrier in any coalition talks.