New Zealand First leader Winston Peters used his keynote party conference speech yesterday to warn voters about the "extremism" that his party would prevent if it is again in a coalition government.

Speaking to roughly 250 people in East Auckland, Peters told party faithful that a vote for New Zealand first was "necessary insurance".

"We've used common-sense to hold Labour and the Greens to account. We've opposed woke pixie dust," he said.

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And he's promising to do that again if re-elected and has already set his sights on immigration policy.

Peters also revealed the party's 2020 campaign slogan: "Back your future."

Although his speech lacked a substantial economic policy, Peters did have a lot to say about immigration and its "reset".

In fact, he announced that if in government, NZ First would limit yearly net migration to 15,000 "highly skilled" workers.

This is a step down from the party's 2017 election promise to reduce net migration to 10,000 a year.

Pre-Covid, annual net migration has been closer to 60,000 people.

Peters said he also plans to redefine what constitutes "highly skilled".

And he made another promise.


"In the next government we will demand the immigration portfolio because for decades the old parties have failed us."

Speaking to reporters after his speech, he said a New Zealand First immigration minister was a bottom line for his party, in any coalition arrangements.

"Back your future" - NZ First's campaign slogan on the side of leader Winston Peters' bus. Photo / Jason Walls

Asked if his comments meant he thought current Immigration Minister – and Peters' Cabinet colleague – Iain Lees-Galloway wasn't doing his job, Peters deflected.

"You can take any conclusion you want," he said.

"The Labour Party campaigned on dramatically changing immigration, but they have not."

He said when "push came to shove" Labour did not keep its pre-election policy – "but we will".


In 2017, Labour promised to reduce net migration by 20,000-30,000 a year.

When asked why his Government had not made good on either of the promises, Peters said: "You can't do everything overnight."

Earlier in the day, Children's Minister Tracey Martin announced the party's first pre-election policy – the return of the universal family benefit.

New Zealand had a universal family benefit back in 1946; it replaced the means-tested system.

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The policy would mean every family in New Zealand would receive a payment from the Government each week.

Peters' speech was by no means the first time he took potshots at his coalition partners over the weekend.


He said while front-bench Ministers have been "spilling out of Cabinet" they have never been any questions about "competency or controversy" when it came to his party.

During his speech, he also questioned the experience of both Labour and the Green Party.

"We've used common sense to hold Labour and the Greens to account," he said.

And it's the latter party he really took aim at.

He said the Green's wealth tax policy was alarming and "totally out of touch with the economic demands of the moment".

And large parts of his almost 50-minute long speech was devoted to policies that NZ First had blocked at the Cabinet table.


"How futile does a capital gains tax look right now? And on Auckland light rail and many others, we have stopped bad, uncosted ideas and called them to account," he said.

"New Zealand First shut down Auckland light rail because sunlight and fiscal sense demanded it."

Peters said if his party is again able to form a coalition, NZ First would act as a handbrake for bad ideas.

"New Zealand First is the insurance voters need to avoid an ideological lurch in either direction," he said.

"Wake up and smell the electoral coffee, change is in the air."