Winston Peters has turned the first sod at what is set to be a multi-million dollar St John ambulance station in Rotorua.

The hub will be built on Te Ngae Rd at the site previously occupied by Placemakers and is being developed by R & B Property Group in Rotorua.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment announced $11m of funding a month ago as part of its shovel-ready projects, which means the development can be fast-tracked.

Earlier this afternoon, the deputy prime minister's bus arrived at 2pm at Rotorua Central Mall as part of his visit to the Bay of Plenty during his party's election campaign tour.

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He was accompanied by deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau, based in Rotorua.

They greeted locals as they walked in, one onlooker yelled out "Hi, Winston".

Peters visited local businesses in the mall including Pero's and Baker's Delight.

One woman asked for a photo with the "movie star".

One man, Doug Wylie, stopped Peters to ask him how his party planned on controlling the city's gang problem.

Winston Peters stops in to talk to staff at Baker's Delight during his visit to Rotorua's Central Mall. Photo / Andrew Warner
Winston Peters stops in to talk to staff at Baker's Delight during his visit to Rotorua's Central Mall. Photo / Andrew Warner

Peters responded by saying how his party were serious about law and order and had already got more police out on the streets.

Tabuteau said they would typically "fill out a hall" on the campaign trail but since they couldn't do that, this was the best way to see and meet the people.

"He's a bit of a political superstar," Tabuteau said.

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Peters was asked at length about the release of the Government's economic numbers released today by Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

The Treasury's numbers show that although the initial economic hit of Covid-19 wasn't as bad as initial expectations, in the longer-term New Zealand's economy will be worse off.

Unemployment was now expected to reach 7.8 per cent in March 2022 – in the Budget The Treasury expected a 10 per cent jobless number this month.

And short-term GDP growth, although expected to be the worst one-off drop in New Zealand's history, is expected to not be as bad a predicted in May's Budget.

Peters told media in Rotorua that the figures showed that there was "a lot of soul searching to do" and highlighted how this was "no time for wasteful spending".

He said he also disputed the figures in some points and believed that unemployment was in fact in a worse position than represented.

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There is "no comparison to this", he said.

Winston was asked about borders reopening and projections that we may not reopen until early 2022.

He said we had to do "far better, far quicker" and that there were hopes for Australia and New Zealand to open to each other before Christmas.

The group is also set to visit the development site of a new St John ambulance hub on Te Ngae Rd this afternoon.

Winston Peters visited Tauranga this morning. Photo / George Novak
Winston Peters visited Tauranga this morning. Photo / George Novak

This morning Peters visited his old stomping ground of Tauranga to announce that his party will put $25 million funding towards a marine research centre in the city if re-elected.

He spoke in Te Puke last night, suggesting using military aircraft to bring seasonal workers from the Pacific to New Zealand to work in orchards.

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Peters was MP of Tauranga from 1984 until 2005, first for National then for New Zealand First after establishing the party.