Polls show Ardern facing election fight
TWO new opinion polls put New Zealand on course for another knife-edge election next year, when Jacinda Ardern's prime ministership will go on the line.
Survey results from national broadcaster 1News and commercial rival Newshub both show Ardern's Labour party trailing the opposition National party.
From a bumper result in the last survey in June, Labour has slipped nine percentage points from 51 per cent to be 42 per cent in the Newshub poll.
Similarly, 1News has Labour heading backwards from 43 to 40 per cent.
National, led by Simon Bridges, has risen from 37 to 43 per cent according to Newshub, and from 45 to 47 per cent according to 1News.
Given the complexity of New Zealand's electoral system, the difficulty of any one party reaching a parliamentary majority, and the fact the election isn't due until November next year, there is one chief takeaway from the results: The election will be close.
"It's a bit risky to place too much judgement based on polls between election times," Ardern told TV1 on Tuesday.
"We're doing better in this poll than we did even on election night.
"There is more work to do and we've got a year left."
The margin of error in both polls is three per cent, meaning a wide range of outcomes is possible.
Bridges claimed his party's upward trend was the electorate making a judgment on the government's competency.
"I think what New Zealanders are seeing more and more is a government that doesn't know what it's doing, that doesn't have any sense of direction or plan for New Zealand, that just isn't delivering," he said.
"They expect better ... National knows what to do in that regard."
Labour ended three terms in opposition in 2017 - despite losing the popular vote to National 44 per cent to 37 - by partnering with NZ First and the Green party to form a coalition.
Minority parties need to hit five per cent if they are to receive a share in nationally-elected MPs according to New Zealand's quirky electoral system.
Without a surge in Labour's own support, Ardern's best chance to remain in office is for both parties to reach five per cent and continue their coalition arrangement.
The Green party should be confident of meeting the threshold after polling at 6.3 per cent and 7 per cent in the new polls.
But the party of deputy prime minister Winston Peters, NZ First, needs a lift after registering four per cent in both surveys.
Ardern said if history was any guide, they will be fine.
"If you look over six years of polls, smaller parties do tend to dip down and lift again at election time," she said.
The best news from Ardern came in the preferred prime minister stakes, where she leads Bridges by 38 per cent to nine per cent.