New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is using the Todd Barclay recording scandal to make a bid for the regional vote.
He upped his attack on National, saying that two Prime Ministers, Sir John Key and Bill English, had "covered up a crime and were party to a pay-out to buy off a witness."
The people of Clutha-Southland had every right to feel hurt, fragile and let down, he said in speech notes for a regional campaign launch in Palmerston North.
"While the Barclay debacle revealed the corrupt inner workings of the National Party machine, it told us also that the National Party takes the regions for granted."
Peters, the MP for Northland, said National had "let the wealth get sucked out of our regions with little payback."
It had underfunded regional roads and hospitals and it had let land and assets be sold off to New Zealanders.
"They have no coherent plan for our regions just as they have no coherent economic plan for this country," he said.
He referred to a book by economist Shamubeel Eaqub saying some provincial centres in New Zealand had become "zombie towns."
"We've got zombies all right but they are not in our provinces. They are in the Beehive."
Peters promised to get the state off the back of small business or, as he put it, "we are going to get National's Ninny, Nosy Nanny state off your back."
He cited a restaurant in his own electorate, the Duke of Marlborough restaurant at Russell.
"[It] had to pull a burger that is a cornerstone of its menu because it offended the Ministry of Primary Industry's] food preparation guidelines by the meat being 'pink and raw,'" he said.
"We'll put a leg rope on them while reminding these bureaucrats who pays their wages."
Speaking about tourism, Peters said New Zealand First wanted to return the gst from tourists back to the regions in which they spent the money.
He confirmed the party's existing policy of giving 25 per cent of royalties for petroleum and mining collected by the Government back to the regions in which the royalties were earned.
That would mean $100 million a year for regional investment.
Speaking after the National Party conference in Wellington today, Prime Minister Bill English said Peters did not understand the economic success of the regions.
"A couple of them are struggling but most of them, in fact all of them, are growing well. Some of them who had given up on the idea of growth are really steaming along."
He said there was strong demand for immigration in the regions because their economies were going well.
"Winston Peters showing up being opposed to growth and jobs is going to find it fairly hard to get much momentum in our regions."
Todd Barclay, the MP for Clutha-Southland, announced last week he will leave politics at the election. The announcement was prompted by revelations that he told English he had recordings of his electorate agent criticising him - something he had previously denied.
A text from English published by Newsroom also said the agent had been paid a sum from Prime Minister's leader's fund to avoid legal action for the privacy breach.