Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern charmed an audience of around 300 people while visiting Waipatu Marae, the place of the first meeting of the Māori parliament in 1892.

Ardern was in Hawke's Bay to launch a fundraising project for the Hukarere Girls' College chapel rebuild, as well as a book, Te Kura i Monoa, by Brian Morris, which tells local Māori history.

She also spent time speaking with local leaders about issues facing the region.

She said there was no question, Hawke's Bay, like most of the country, needed investment in housing.

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"As housing is an issue for the rest of the country, it is here too," she said.

"We know that is a goal for the local community, but also for the Government, we already have a number of projects under way, but it's actually just about speeding that up.

"Making sure we are doing everything from addressing the lack of rentals, but also chronic homelessness as well."

She said the issue of homelessness extended beyond the cities and affected rural areas of New Zealand as well.

"Under the leadership of local MP Meka Whaitiri there has been the housing summit here already. For the second time the leadership from MHUD (ministry of housing and urban development) are here. Our hope is we look and find those partnership opportunities."

CEO of Hastings District Council Nigel Bickle said in Napier and Hastings there are currently 440 children living in motels.

"We have got the highest percentage increase in whanau who have registered for public housing in New Zealand in the last 12 months. Six-hundred-and-sixty-one whanau are waiting on the public housing register. Eight-hundred-and-eighty people in our community are living in hotels. Last night 440 kids are calling a motel room home."

He issued a challenge to Ardern to return to Hawke's Bay in eight weeks with a plan to move forward with housing in Hawke's Bay.

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The Hastings Youth Council was also given the opportunity to speak, with chairwoman Kate Allen telling Ardern about the importance of investing in mental health in Hawke's Bay.

"Hawke's Bay has the highest rate of suicides in the country."

Ardern replied that mental health was one of the top five priorities in the upcoming budget.

Jacinda Ardern speaks at Waipatu Marae. Photo / Warren Buckland
Jacinda Ardern speaks at Waipatu Marae. Photo / Warren Buckland

"I know that the Hawke's Bay - I know that Hastings - has a story."

Another topic for discussion was the Provincial Growth fund. Ardern said that Hawke's Bay had been identified as a surge region.

"It is an area we have really identified that we want to partner with local leadership on delivering PGF projects that will make a tangible difference, particularly on employment.

"Whilst I am not going to make any announcements today, it is an area, a region, you will see us pretty present."

Her visit to Hawke's Bay followed the decision announced on Wednesday not to proceed with a capital gains tax.

She said she shared the disappointment of New Zealanders who had been hoping for a CGT.

"Capital gains was a tool that I felt would bring greater fairness to our tax system. But ultimately we are an MMP government, and the votes simply weren't there."

She was accompanied by Crown/Māori relations minister Kelvin Davis , Employment Minister Willie Jackson , Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri and Labour MP Louisa Wall during her visit.