Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has taken a pre-emptive strike against Waikato farmers planning a protest meeting tomorrow, saying Waikato rivers are among the worst polluted.

Ardern has been criticised for policies targeting the primary sector such as water charges to pay for river cleanups and bringing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Hamilton, Ardern was unrepentant, saying New Zealand had to ensure its environment was as clean and green as it claimed.

A group of farmers are due to hold a protest meeting in Morrinsville tomorrow - the town Ardern grew up in and often refers to on the campaign trail as giving her an understanding of the issues facing rural communities.


That will be attended by Myrtle the tractor former MP Shane Ardern drove up Parliament's steps and by NZ First leader Winston Peters.

In a pre-emptive strike, Ardern said if New Zealand wanted to hold its head high as a "clean and green" country internationally, it had to address issues closer to home.

She said 60 per cent of monitored waterways were no longer swimmable. "And you don't have to look far to realise how true that is - large stretches of water in the Waikato are no longer swimmable".

She also denied she was responsible for driving an urban-rural wedge into the campaign, saying it was the National Party which had done that by scaremongering over a Labour Government.

"I completely reject that ... I know there is a shared desire to give each and every one of our people a fair go and a decent shot. That is why I give you this commitment today - I will be a Prime Minister for Morrinsville as much as one for Mt Albert, for Hamilton as much as Hokitika. We have no time for false divisions because it is time to clean up our rivers, fix our broken mental health system, end homeless and seize the opportunities of a low carbon economy."

Ardern was speaking to a boisterous audience of Labour supporters at the Clarence St Theatre in Hamilton. The overload had to be moved into the foyers to watch on television screens.

Ardern said despite National's attacks on Labour's economic and tax plans, voters had a choice - a National government would mean a generation of New Zealanders would be worse off than the one that went before.

She said in some ways New Zealand was considered the envy of the world because of its economic growth. However her measure would be how people in towns such as Ngaruawahia were feeling, rather than overseas economists.


"A successful economy is one that serves its people, not the other way round.

"I want economic success to feel real, but it won't feel like anything but faint praise until it feels real for everyone."

She said Labour would clean up rivers, fund a strong health system, improve mental health, provide housing for the homeless and affordable houses for young house buyers.

"Nine years of indifference is not good enough. It is time to be bold and brave."

"Despite the scaremongering, we'll do all of that without changing income taxes, company taxes or GST."

She pointed to mental health statistics, and child poverty, saying it was "starting to become normalised".


Ardern said she was "back in my own back yard" and referred to her birth and early years in Dinsdale and upbringing in Morrinsville. She said she recalled "many hours doing laps down Victoria St in my friend's car, because that's what bogans did".

The rally opened with Anika Moa, introduced by Tamati Coffey as the third most popular lesbian in New Zealand - after the Topp Twins.

Moa jokingly took exception, saying she liked to think she was the hottest: "They've had their time."

Miss Ribena was also in the audience - described by Coffey as "one of our most staunch supporters" who told him she might want to be an MP in the future.

Moa is the latest of a string of New Zealand musicians to appear at Labour campaign events - the campaign launch featured Hollie Smith and a speech by Don McGlashan.

At a Wellington rally, bands Phoenix Foundation, Fat Freddy's Drop and Black Seeds joined forces to form a new band 'Stardust' - the word National leader Bill English used to describe the excitement around Ardern's new leadership.