The Prime Minister has hit back at Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters for saying New Zealand was “gilding the lily” about its response to Covid-19.

Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had done “exceptionally well”.

“I think we do a disservice to every single New Zealander whose been part of that team effort if we don’t acknowledge that.

“I think we need to take into account, relative to other countries, how well New Zealanders have done and the results that have been generated.”

The exchange came as Parliament wrapped up its last day before the campaign proper and politicians got back on the campaign trail.

Electioneering was put on hold to deal with the latest Covid-19 outbreak but has now been taken off pause in the lead-up to the October 17 election date.

Peters skipped the last day of Parliament to get a jump on his campaign and kicked off the second half of his bus tour of New Zealand at a brewery in Upper Hutt.

After taking a tour of the Brewtown facility, Peters said New Zealand hadn’t “done as well as we could have done” and mistakes were made.

“Don’t keep on gilding the lily and saying everyone’s fine when it wasn’t going fine.

“The testing wasn’t going on, the surveillance wasn’t going on, the oversight and scrutiny that should have been done by the military was not happening. And masks were not used.”

And he put the responsibility for those mistakes at Labour ministers’ feet.

“We let our guard down,” said Peters.

β€œToo many things fell through the traps, or the holes so to speak, that were deliberately left there by the bureaucracy … The fact of the matter is that the Labour ministers are the only ones in charge of all that.”

Ardern was questioned on whether she was referring to Peters when she said it was a disservice to not acknowledge how well the country had done.

NZ First Winston Peters said New Zealand was
NZ First Winston Peters said New Zealand was “gilding the lily” about its response to Covid-19. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She replied: “What we’re seeing more than anything else is we’re getting closer to an election.”

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said he didn’t agree with Peters’ comments.