A state of the nation address from Bill English has been overshadowed by speculation that he is facing a leadership challenge as the National leader.

The former PM brushed aside questions about his leadership on his way to make his state of the nation speech.

Mr English described the government's policy as muddled and cited backing away from land reform as one example.

“You might have heard some colourful comments from Minister Shane Jones that he's looking for land on which to plant a billion trees. Now that call's been made, looking for the land, just at the same time as the government has cancelled a little understood but vital microeconomic reform that Te Ture Whenua Act reforms. This is changing the governance and decision making around millions of hectares of underutilized Māori land. Most of it is in Northland and the Bay of Plenty which has the highest rates of, to quote Mr Jones, nephews sitting on couches.”

Mr English says he's focused on leading National back into government.

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