Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins outline visions for future at first TVNZ leaders' debate

Recap TVNZ’s first leaders’ debate for 2020 between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins as they went head-to-head on policies that matter to Kiwis.

TVNZ's Leaders' Debate sees Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins go head-to-head on policies that matter to Kiwis. Source: 1 NEWS

9:10pm: That concludes our live updates for tonight. 

Check out a full wrap-up of tonight's debate here.

And read the full analysis from our commentators Mutch McKay and Lees-Marshment here

9:00pm: "Given that most of the country, most of the Covid-battered world, is basically just knackered... tonight’s opening debate felt a bit knackered," says The Spinoff.

Stuff political reporter Henry Cooke tweeted: "That was the kind of debate that proved why we need minor parties in New Zealand."

8:45pm: "Politics is not a blood sport," Ardern says after the debate.

"I thought tonight did give an opportunity for people to hear from us."

Ardern says the debate gave voters good insight into Labour's policies.

Collins says she "really enjoyed" herself.

"I just felt that it could have gone for another hour," she says.

She says she felt her personality and her party's policy was shown tonight. 

"There'll be some people looking at tonight and coming back to National I think."

8:30pm: Collins has been given "a bit of a chance" that she now needs to build on, Lees-Marshment says.

She urged Ardern to be stronger and more passionate.

"She's the leader here, she's not the challenger ... she needs to play that position effectively."

Mutch McKay says she wants to see more of a contest of ideas in the next leaders' debate, scheduled for two days before election day.

8:28pm: Lees-Marshment says Collins spent too much time talking about Labour's failures, rather than what a National Government could bring.

She says it was also strange that Ardern seemed to be defensive, given her high polling.

Mutch McKay says people watching at home may see Collins in a different light.

"She answered in quite simple language ... and talked directly to people," Mutch McKay says.

8:26pm: Mutch McKay says Collins looked like she enjoyed herself more.

But, she says Ardern had a stronger finish.

Lees-Marshment says Ardern was speaking as if she was already at the end of her third term.

"Collins was actually more effective at communication. She was actually more relatable," she says.

"Ardern seemed to lack passion until the very end."

8:25pm: We'll get analysis now from our political editor Jessica Mutch McKay and political scientist Jennifer Lees-Marshment.

8:22pm: Closing statements

Collins says Labour will "muddle along" with "hopeful thoughts" if re-elected. She says National has a real plan to build the economy.

She says this means tax cuts for middle-earners who were "struggling" and getting rid of the RMA to build houses.

Ardern says Labour is investing in people to re-train and is supporting small businesses.

She says a Labour Government would bring stability and look after future generations. 

8:20pm: Child poverty

Collins says child poverty, in terms of material hardship, got worse under Labour.

But Ardern says she still has long-term aspirations for reducing child poverty.

She says seven out of nine child poverty indicators, in the "short time" she's been in Government, has improved.

It was in contrast to the worsening of the indicators when she started in Government, she says.

8:17pm: Ardern says there's potential for "double duty" - fixing the country's issues like food insecurity and taking action on climate change - while creating jobs at the same time.

Campbell asked Collins what a National-ACT coalition would look like, given ACT is proposing to cut some increases to benefits to get debt down. 

Collins says she won't allow ACT leader David Seymour's welfare cuts. 

8:10pm: Waterways

When asked about National MP David Bennett's comments that the Government's freshwater standards would be "gone by lunchtime" under a National Government, Collins says her Government would review them.

The ban on all new irrigation would be gone under a National-led Government because it was impractical, Collins says. 

Ardern says the freshwater standards are important to stop waterway degradation.

8:05pm: Farming and climate change

Tracy Brown, a Waikato farmer, says Government regulations is having adverse effects on farmers' mental health. She asked the leaders how they'd support farmers to farm sustainably while maintaining profits.

Collins says Kiwi farmers are some of the "best and most efficient" in the world. She says they produced very little on a global scale in terms of greenhouse gases. 

"We'd back you... we'd look after you because we would not bag you and not change everything without talking to you about what we needed to do," Collins says of a National-led Government.

Ardern says exporters want to know that we're producing food sustainably in New Zealand and are mindful of climate change and water quality.

"We've got to do this together," she says.

She says her Government had built consensus solutions with farmers about how to tackle climate change.

But Collins refutes that farmers felt supported by the current Government, something that Ardern says isn't true because farmers were now talking about sustainable farming.

7:55pm: Capital Gains Tax

Ardern she says voters don't agree with a CGT, and stuck to her promise not to introduce a CGT while she's in power.

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CGT had once been a cornerstone policy for the Labour Party leader in her 2017 election campaign. Source: 1 NEWS

Collins says it's a slippery slope if CGT is introduced. She says KiwiSaver and shares could eventually be included in it, too.

"Isn't the answer to build more houses?" Collins says.

7:48pm: Housing

Ardern says New Zealand needs to keep building and maintaining its social housing stock, while increasing minimum wages and supporting the living wage. 

Collins pointed to Labour's KiwiBuild failure, which didn't build the thousands of affordable houses it promised. 

She says RMA reform was the most important step to increasing housing stock. 

7:40pm: Tax cuts

Collins says National's tax cuts for the next 16 months will make a difference to those struggling, but Ardern says offering tax cuts now is "simply irresponsible".

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Judith Collins said the cuts would allow average earners to pocket an additional $50 each week as the nation battles the Covid-19 pandemic. Source: 1 NEWS

Campbell pointed out those on minimum wage would only get just above $8 a week because of National's tax cuts, despite them more likely putting the money back in the economy. 

Meanwhile, Ardern was challenged by Campbell for her party's policy to increase tax for the top 2 per cent of owners, which would only raise about $500 million a year.

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It would mean people are taxed 39 per cent on any income earned over $180,000. Source: 1 NEWS

Ardern says there's a need for the additional tax rate and it wasn't the time for uncertainty about tax. 

7:35pm: Tackling inequality

Covid-19 has put magnifying glass on education inequity in New Zealand, with some students needing to drop out of school to work for the sake of their families, says Aorere College head girl Aigagalefili Fepulea’i-Tapua’i.

Collins says: "We've got to get people into trades, get the educated, but also, we have to make sure that we have jobs that people can go to so people can look after their children rather than the other way around."

Ardern says parents need to have enough income to not just survive, but thrive. She says lifting the minimum wage makes a difference.

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Meanwhile Jacinda Ardern says investing in those on the lowest wages is “what makes a difference.” Source: 1 NEWS

But Collins says small businesses can't afford more increases to minimum wage during a recession, and a National-led government wouldn't increase minimum wages. 

7.29pm: Both leaders don't commit to moving the voting age to 16, at least for now.

7:25pm: Infrastructure

Collins is sticking to National's promise of a second habour crossing, amid traffic woes for Aucklanders on the damaged bridge this week.

Ardern says there's a need for a long-term pipeline of infrastructure projects.

7:20pm: Health infrastructure and DHB funding

Amid a multi-million-dollar shortfall in Canterbury DHB, Ardern says the Labour-led Government has put in targeted funding, especially around mental health.

She recognised there was an infrastructure defecit with DHBs and says funding needed to continue.

Ardern says the infrastructure defecit came because there wasn't a sufficient pipeline of projects.

Collins says there's not enough money going in certain parts of the health system.

"We may have to" excuse Canterbury DHB's debt, Collins says.

She says she'll send Dr Shane Reti, National's health spokesperson, to assess the situation. 

7:10pm: On the border

Ardern says border exemptions are important for specialist skills. 

"But right now, we have to just have to accept there will be limitations to safe border management."

Collins says it's not enough for the Government to continue making incremental changes. 

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The National leader says the horticultural industry is crying out for staff. Source: 1 NEWS

Read more on Labour's border policy here, and National's here.

7:05pm: Response to tonight's poll

Collins says there's still a lot of people not sure about who they want to give their vote to. She says it's a good opportunity to show National's vision.

"I never give up," Collins says.

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'I'm a fighter' - Judith Collins defends poor Colmar Brunton results

Ardern says making assumptions this far out from the election shows complacency, as the polls show Labour could govern alone.

7:01pm: Opening statements from Collins and Ardern about what they want New Zealand to look like in the future. 

Collins: "I look at where we've been going, and I think there is a better way. And that better way is about growing our economy, getting the money that we need for health and education and everything else that we require."

Ardern: "Now is the time to invest in our people and their skills and training to create jobs to look after our environment and also support growth in the economy."

7:00pm: We're live! 

Watch on TVNZ1 now or go to

We're also livestreaming on the 1 NEWS Facebook page.

6:55pm: Five more minutes.

Tune in on TVNZ1 from 7pm. It'll be streamed live at and on the 1 NEWS Facebook page too.

6:50pm: Ten more minutes until we're live. 

Here's TVNZ1's Breakfast host Matty McLean with some encouragement for tonight's moderator John Campbell.

For viewers at home, here's 1 NEWS' guide on how you may want to look at tonight's debate. 

6:45pm: What can we expect ahead of tonight's debate? 

Collins has vowed to seize the chance to reverse her party's fortunes, AAP reported this morning.

Ardern says she won't change the debate style that served her well as opposition leader against Bill English three years ago.

Speaking of previous debates, Wellington journalist and author David Cohen's analysis on RNZ rounds up some of what he thinks are the best political leaders' debates from the past.

6:35pm: Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has arrived in the TVNZ building ahead of the debate at 7pm.

Meanwhile, NZ Herald political editor Audrey Young is calling tonight "the most important of [National leader] Judith Collins' election campaign".

6:30pm: Stuff is reporting that National's fiscal hole, which was valued at $4 billion on Sunday, has doubled to $8 billion after the party's finance spokesperson appeared to have double-counted part of its transport funding. 

6:20pm: A number of reactions to tonight's polls.

Here's Stuff political reporter Henry Cooke:

Here's The Spinoff's Alex Braae:

6:08pm: On the minor parties: ACT leader David Seymour says tonight's poll result has encouraged ACT to campaign harder.

Greens leader James Shaw thinks it shows a Labour-Greens Government, and there's no damage to his polling despite the Green School saga.

NZ First Winston Peters calls the poll "rubbish".

Advance NZ appeared in the polls for the first time. 

6:02pm: And on preferred Prime Minister according to the poll:

1 NEWS political editor Jessica Mutch McKay says, in normal times, a drop of five percentage points for Labour would be a big deal.

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Meanwhile the Green Party has clawed itself back from teetering on the threshold. Source: 1 NEWS

"But that 48 number is still massive, and that comes despite the fact we've had a second wave of Covid-19."

She says National's promised tax cuts haven't swayed voters either. It also comes as the party's been out really selling their leader Judith Collins, even allowing the audience and the public to see a slightly lighter side.

read more
Your Vote 2020: How does the 1 NEWS-Colmar Brunton poll work?

But, ACT is the big winner tonight, Mutch McKay says.

6:01pm: The latest poll shows Labour has dropped 5% support to 48% - with that largely going to minor parties. National has dropped by 1% to 31%.

Watch 1 NEWS at Six here.

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Although the poll indicates Labour could govern alone, they’ve registered a decrease in support. Source: 1 NEWS

ACT has continued to gain support up to 7% - translating to nine seats in Parliament.

The Green Party has also clawed itself back from teetering on the Parliamentary threshold, sitting on 6%.

Read the whole story here.

6:00pm: In breaking news, the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll results have been released.

5:55pm: Five minutes to go until the latest 1 News Colmar Brunton poll is released on a busy night for politics.

Here's 1 NEWS Online reporter Anna Whyte:

5:45pm: Tune in to 1 NEWS at Six on TVNZ1 from 6pm for the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll. 

In the meantime, an "exclusive" glimpse of the results from reporter Kim Baker Wilson.


In the first televised leaders’ debate in the 2020 election campaign, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National leader Judith Collins will be given the opportunity to share their vision for New Zealand’s future.

They’re expected to debate the biggest issues facing the country, the Covid-19 crisis and respond to the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll results.

The debate will be moderated by John Campbell.

The debate will be on TVNZ 1 from 7pm, and will be streamed live at and on the 1 NEWS Facebook page.