National Party delegates took in a deep breath this morning when social welfare minister Paula Bennett told them about a West Coast couple who had had been living on an invalids benefit for 15 years and were on $1700 a week.

"Yes, you should gasp," said Bennett at Waitangi. "What gets me most about this story is that in the 15 years they have been on the benefit - the husband has a very bad back - they had 10 children.

"Bad back? Or laid back, I think," she joked.

Bennett was responding to a question from the audience about a review last year into 300 beneficiaries who received more than $1000 a week.

Most are in fact people taking in foster children or looking after other people's children.

But the West Coast couple had stuck in her mind.

I guess that will be enough detail for some people to suggest she has breached the privacy of some more beneficiaries - having still not rid herself of the privacy complaint from Natasha Fuller.

Bennett was one of the speakers giving a quick overview of their portfolio at the northern regional conference in Waitangi, the last of National's regional conferences.

The delegates appear in very good heart. There are about 300 here, which is a huge turnout for a regional conference.

Maurice Williamson began this morning with a rundown of the leaky homes repair package - and accused some mayors of leaking more than their buildings.

John Carter gave them a snappy overview of the super-city package and Phil Heatley confessed to being more passionate about his fisheries portfolio than state housing - warning them as well that buying a raffle ticket at the pub for a crayfish that has not been commercially caught is illegal.

Bennett stole the show, however, with her own laid back style.

She began by saying she was a bit thrown by the fact that Williamson had made a speech without an inappropriate joke, that Carter had finished on time and that Heatley had managed to make aquaculture interesting.

The mood is a lot better than the other regional conference I covered in Masterton.

The day after that Key vetoed the Tuhoe settlement and Bill English delivered his "tax-switch" budget.

English spoke last night and admonished himself as "loose-lipped" for having taken the focus off the Budget through his comments about floating part of Kiwibank.