National on top but New Zealanders iffy on Luxon as PM

By Ben McKay
Updated August 3 2023 - 10:17am, first published 10:13am
Chris Luxon isn't popular in polls but is tipped to become New Zealand's next prime minister. (Ben McKay/AAP PHOTOS)
Chris Luxon isn't popular in polls but is tipped to become New Zealand's next prime minister. (Ben McKay/AAP PHOTOS)

The Labour government is so unpopular, New Zealanders are on the brink of handing government to a prime minister they don't trust.

The centre-right National party has come out on top in a second poll released this week ahead of New Zealand's October 14 election.

National polled 36.3 per cent in a Newshub-Reid Research poll, and could govern with a three-seat majority in coalition with the libertarian ACT, which polled 12.1 per cent.

However, Kiwis aren't yet sold on National leader Chris Luxon, who fell in favourability and trustworthiness in the eyes of New Zealanders since the last poll in May.

Just 15.9 per cent of New Zealanders named Mr Luxon as their preferred prime minister, down half a per cent.

While 35 per cent said they trusted the former Air New Zealand chief executive, 46.9 per cent said they didn't.

In contrast, incumbent prime minister and Labour leader Chris Hipkins, who replaced Dame Jacinda Ardern in January, enjoys a positive trust rating, with 51.5 per cent trusting him, and 34.9 per cent not.

The poll comes after a month of drama and scandal for Labour - labelled by Mr Hipkins as "some gnarly and difficult issues" - the biggest of which was the downfall of Justice Minister Kiri Allan.

Ms Allan resigned as minister and will leave politics this year after drunkenly crashing her car amid a well-publicised bout of poor mental health.

The issue was taxing for Mr Hipkins, but Kiwis approved of his leadership during the incident: 53.5 per cent saying he handled it well, and 19.5 per cent saying he did poorly.

"It's one of those things I found incredibly difficult and I'll be really open about that," Mr Hipkins said.

"You can look back in hindsight and say 'would I do things differently if I knew then what I know now?' and of course I would."

The results follow a Roy Morgan poll earlier this week which put National and ACT on track for a one-seat majority.

This week, the campaign has centred on infrastructure, with National outlining a $NZ24 billion ($A22 billion) plan centred on building 13 "roads of national significance" across the country.

Mr Luxon said he would attempt to target trillion-dollar sovereign wealth and pension funds to invest in the plan, saying he would "absolutely" welcome funding from China's Belt and Road initiative.

That comment prompted former prime minister Helen Clark to make a rare intervention into the politics of the day.

"Risky," she tweeted, alongside a Newshub story discussing his comments, before linking to a BBC story outlining concerns about European debt to China.

Mr Luxon dismissed critics of his plan as xenophobic, and said all funding would involve national security assessments.

NEW ZEALAND POLL: NEWSHUB-REID RESEARCH

National - 36.6 per cent (up 1.3)

Labour - 32.3 (down 3.6)

ACT - 12.1 (up 1.3)

Greens - 9.6 (up 1.5)

NZ First - 4.1 (up 1.1)

Maori Party - 2.7 (down 0.8)

TOP - 1.5 (down 0.5)

PREFERRED PRIME MINISTER

Chris Hipkins (Labour) - 24 (up 0.6)

Chris Luxon (National) - 15.9 (down 0.5)

David Seymour (ACT) - 10.9 (down 3.4)

Winston Peters (NZ First) - 4.3 (up 0.7)

Australian Associated Press

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