National has pulled ahead of Labour in the latest 1News-Kantar poll for the first time in more than two years, and could form a Government with Act if Te Pāti Māori fails to win an electorate seat and gets knocked out of Parliament.
National has surged 7 points to 39 per cent to take the lead in the latest poll - the first since January.
Labour has dropped 3 points to 37 per cent. It is the first time National has been ahead of Labour since February 2020, a month before the Covid 19 pandemic tore through the world and New Zealand was plunged into lockdown.
National leader Christopher Luxon told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning people wanted strong economic leadership and there was a sense that the Government had lost direction.
"We've got some big challenges to work through - the cost of living is going to be a big one to work through in the next few years - but we've also got some massive opportunities out there in the world.
"It's a pretty exciting future for this country. If we can just work our way through challenges and get focused on winning again would be great."
He said National proposed common sense answers and was now seen as a viable government in waiting. It was important for people to see this country as a place of opportunity.
He said he wanted the country to be a place where anyone could make their dream come true and a government that enabled this. It appeared we had collectively lost that ambition and aspiration.
"We want the country to realise its maximum potential economically, socially, environmentally.
"We want every individual, every five-year-old in this country to have a shot at whatever they want to do in life."
Luxon said the world was taking off and New Zealand was still playing an "inward" game.
On the proposed TVNZ-RNZ merger Luxon said he would reject the policy. Describing it as a "dog's breakfast", saying he had no idea why they were doing it and what they were trying to accomplish.
The Greens are steady on 9 per cent, while Act has fallen 3 points to 8 per cent.
Te Pāti Māori is on 2 per cent. If it wins an electorate seat and enters Parliament, it would be in a kingmaker position as neither obvious governing blocs would have enough seats to govern outright. The parties need a minimum of 61 seats to govern.
On those numbers National would have 49 seats and Labour 47. The Greens would have 11 seats and Act 10.
The big question is whether Te Pāti Māori could hold on to Rawiri Waititi's electorate seat, Wairiki, giving it representation in Parliament. If so, it would have three seats and would be kingmaker, deciding who would form the next Government.
Luxon is also surging in the preferred prime minister stakes, up 8 points to 25 per cent. Labour leader Jacinda Ardern is down just 1 point to 34 per cent.
David Seymour is on 5 per cent, down 1 point.
The poll was taken between March 5 and 8 and polled 1000 eligible voters. The maximum sampling error is approximately ±3.1 per centage-points at the 95 per cent confidence level.
Ardern appeared unconcerned by the polls.
"My focus rather than being on polls is on people," she said.
Waititi said he could not work with Act.
He said he would conduct a "beauty contest" when the time to form governments arose.
In the last 1News-Kantar Poll, taken in January, National rose 4 points to 32 per cent. That was the first time that poll had National in the 30s since the 2020 election.
Labour was down just 1 point to 40 per cent, with likely support party, the Greens, steady on 9 per cent.
The poll took in the weekend, when National announced a $1.7 billion tax cut policy, which Labour quickly decried as being unfair to people on low incomes, and containing a "fiscal hole".
Although Labour has been ahead in all credible polls since February 2020, the dramatic pandemic leads it had notched up in late 2020 and 2021 had begun to disappear after Luxon's elevation to the National leadership.
The most recent published poll has come from the Taxpayers' Union-Curia.
Taken in February, it showed Labour up 1 point at 42 per cent, just 4 points ahead of National on 38 per cent.
National gained 5 percentage points.