The Labour-led coalition's first Budget failed to take advantage of a strong economy "gifted" to it by the previous Government, National leader Simon Bridges says.

"Everything we did was about making the boat go faster, and they've pulled anchor," Bridges said in Parliament yesterday.

The Leader of the Opposition, in his first Budget as leader, was particularly critical of what he saw as an underwhelming investment in the health sector.

He claimed that National had increased health funding by more last year than the Labour-led Government had in its first Budget.

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National spent $924m in its last Budget on new operating funding compared with the Labour coalition's $774m – though National's spending included $347m for a pay equity settlement.

Bridges said that was a fair comparison, because this year's Budget included a pay increase to midwives.

There were also broken election promises, he said, because Labour had failed to provide free GP visits or fund 1800 new police officers.

But the main focus of Bridges' speech was that the Government should have done more with what it inherited from National – strong books, a growing economy, and low unemployment.

"They are awash with cash but they're still taxing more, they're borrowing more, they're spending more, and they're hoping, and they're killing the confidence of this country's economy along the way.

"We know it's hard-working Kiwis that make up the economy — it's the mechanics and the midwives — and we would empower them and then get out of their way."

The Budget had put rhetoric over reality, he said, because it included little for working New Zealanders and families.

"Don't talk to me about a squeezed middle, Prime Minister. This Government is squeezing them hard and it's going to hurt."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in response, said the Government could have held back its $5 billion families package for maximum political impact in its first Budget.

"But we made a decision for people. We delivered it as fast as we could so that, in six weeks' time, those families will see that benefit."

She was defensive about her party's flagship policy to build more affordably-priced houses, which has come under serious scrutiny in recent weeks.

"I would rather be a Prime Minister that tried and missed than a Prime Minister that never tried at all and conceded before we picked up a hammer."

New Zealand First leader and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters defended the $900m boost for foreign aid and diplomacy, which National has used to say the Government is choosing diplomats over doctors.

"[Bridges] may believe, as he said last week, that it's a waste of money trying to compete with others in the Pacific, but our partners in the region and those outside it disagree with him."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw championed his party's wins, in particular the biggest increase to conservation funding since 2002.

It was a Budget for "every takahē and every kākā and every kereru", he said.


WHAT THEY SAID

• "It's a tax and spend, it's a borrow and hope Budget, and through what is really a special form of incompetence they're still managing to break nearly all of their promises."
- Leader of the Opposition and National leader Simon Bridges

• "Today, we shift the focus of Government from electoral cycles to generational ones … because in 15 or 20 or 30 years' time, I want my child to look back on the history books and judge me and this Government favourably."
- Prime Minister and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern

• "This is about a Budget building foundations. It's fact, not fiction, real not fake news."
- Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters

• "This is a Budget for every Kiwi — and every takahē and every kākā and every kereru — because this Budget recognises that our natural heritage, our natural capital, is the source of our prosperity."
- Green Party co-leader James Shaw

• "What a sad day for New Zealand, when a transformational Budget is promised, and a Budget of taxing and spending on marginal voters is delivered."
- Act Party leader David Seymour