Winston Peters is ready for battle - he's even quit smoking ahead of the election

NZ First leader Winston Peters is enjoying his early surge in the polls and has just wrapped up a two week tour of the ...
CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF

NZ First leader Winston Peters is enjoying his early surge in the polls and has just wrapped up a two week tour of the country.

With just ten weeks until the election Winston Peters is preparing for the fight of his life - he's even quit smoking for it.

The NZ First leader is sitting pretty as his party surges in the polls.

Known to traditionally leave his run to a few weeks out from an election, the current 11 per cent his party's consistently polling at has the seasoned politician grinning like a Cheshire cat - not to mention a recent poll had him second in line for preferred prime minister, behind Bill English.

Former Labour MP Shane Jones has joined his old mate Winston Peters to run in the Whangarei seat for NZ First.
GETTY IMAGES

Former Labour MP Shane Jones has joined his old mate Winston Peters to run in the Whangarei seat for NZ First.

The 72-year-old will be expecting a sizeable audience in Auckland when he takes the stage on Sunday to deliver his speech at the party's annual conference.

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The party pulled big numbers at the same event last year despite it being held in the depths of Dunedin, so the combination of holding this year's in the country's biggest city and it being an election year may lead to record crowds.

NZ First leader Winston Peters with his deputy Ron Mark who ousted Tracey Martin for the job.

NZ First leader Winston Peters with his deputy Ron Mark who ousted Tracey Martin for the job.

Peters is aiming to get up to 300 on Saturday and many more on Sunday.

He's managed to secure mental health advocate Mike King as a guest speaker to talk about what Peters says is a "serious issue".

"I want him to tell us what the people who think like him, the people on the street, what they think on this issue and what they want us to do as a party. The bureaucratisation of this issue knows no bounds," Peters said.

Holding the party conference in the middle of winter doesn't come without its obstacles - in this case the two other speakers planned for the event are unlikely to make it due to travel cancellations.

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But Peters isn't concerned about that and says there's plenty of things that were left off the agenda that can be added back in to fill the gap - exactly what they were he wouldn't reveal.

As for policy announcements there's going to be some "seriously big ones".

Details as to what area they might be in weren't forthcoming from the leader.

It's understood at least six Ambassadors are attending at the weekend and you don't book the Vodafone Events Centre for your conference unless you plan on filling it.

'I AM FIT AND READY'

Over the summer break Peters took time to recharge - something he does rarely - and said he was going to get fit in preparation for a big 2017.

Peters' boot camp seems to have extended to kicking old habits after he decided a couple of months ago to go cold turkey and quit smoking.

He tried to quit once before but this time round it seems to be sticking and the signs of a reformed smoker - consistent gum chewing - haven't gone unnoticed.

Peters had no interest in talking about his decision to quit.

"This is a line of inquiry I'm not willing to facilitate".

However, he did write in a press release earlier this month that he no longer smoked and conceded it was all about being fit and ready for the campaign trail.

"I'm not getting fit and ready, I am fit and ready. That's why I've just done a 15-day arduous trip 24/7 around this country," he said.

Peters has just wrapped up a 'Campaign for the Regions Tour' where he held more than 20 public meetings from one end of the country to the other. 

While this weekend's events will be all about Winston there will be another act in the wings - the first big public appearance of Shane Jones, the party's newly appointed Whangarei candidate and widely touted future leader.

All eyes will be on whether he and deputy leader Ron Mark can play nice with each other and whether Jones can keep himself in Winston's shadow.

 - Stuff

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