The year's first Colmar-Brunton poll puts National at 45 per cent, seven points ahead of Labour.

That is a 17-point jump for National since December last year.

It is also the first time Helen Clark's government's been knocked from the top spot.

Don Brash is still 10 points behind Helen Clark as preferred leader.


But he has risen 11 points to 24 per cent.

Don Brash said it was because of his stance on race relations.

He said his controversial Orewa speech struck a chord with many New Zealanders.

Dr Brash said he will maintain National's popularity with future speeches on other major topics like the economy, social welfare, education, and security.

A political expert said the Labour-led Government has paved the way for National's huge leap in the polls.

Dr Jon Johansson said National had pushed the race relations debate.

He said pakeha have been uneasy about the issue because the Government has not properly explained its approach to Maori.

Dr Johansson said National may drop in popularity when it starts to focus on other topics like the economy.


He said National will have a hard time keeping its lead in the polls.

- Newstalk ZB