Australia's former prime minister John Howard has urged delegates at New Zealand's National Party conference not to dwell on the "unjust" result of 2017 and its former leaders and to give Simon Bridges the support he needs.

Howard opened the National Party conference at SkyCity Convention Centre, describing the outcome of last year's New Zealand election as "disappointing, unjust and unfair".

It brought first some laughs from the 600 gathered, and then applause.

Howard said he had sent a hand-written note to former prime minister Bill English after NZ First leader Winston Peters opted to go into coalition with Labour rather than National.


"It said: "Dear Bill, There is no justice in politics."

Howard said National could hold its head high and described former pPrime ministers English and Sir John Key as setting the economic exemplar for other countries to follow around the world.

"It was an example and time and time again people in Australia would say, 'why doesn't our Government do what's happening in New Zealand?'"

However, he urged the members not to linger on the past but to give Bridges the support he would need.

"Proud as you may be of your former leaders, every new leader is entitled to make his own impression."

He said he had met with Bridges and his wife Natalie for dinner the night before and would offer what support he could, albeit from a distance.

Bridges also spoke briefly, telling about 600 of the party faithful that National could win in 2020 but it would not be easy.

His main speech will be tomorrow and this morning Bridges focused on the future of charter schools in his opening remarks.


He announced new policy to reinstate the schooling model which Labour is dis-establishing, and to expand it to allow schools to focus on specific areas such as technology and science.

A group from the South Auckland Middle School partner school had provided the opening music for the conference - singing Halleluia followed by the National Anthem.

The Coalition Government is repealing the "partnership" school model at the end of the year and is midway through the process of deciding whether the schools will instead be approved as special character schools.

Bridges spoke of his own upbringing in West Auckland and the opportunities education had afforded him.

"We shouldn't be blinded by ideology when it comes to education, yet when it comes to Partnership Schools this Government is."