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NZ opposition leader popular but battling

New Zealand opposition leader Chris Luxon has improved the National party's fortunes. (AAP)

The honeymoon for New Zealand's new opposition leader may be over, with a series of testing interviews putting Chris Luxon on the spot over tax, inflation and equality.

Elected as National party leader in November, Mr Luxon has quickly improved the party's fortunes from former boss Judith Collins.

New Zealanders have shown great warmth towards the affable Mr Luxon in five months, with a major pollster even putting National ahead of Jacinda Ardern's governing Labour party.

However, the 52-year-old former Air New Zealand chief executive is struggling to spell out an alternative vision beyond opposing government measures.

As New Zealand battles its highest inflation in 30 years, National supports both income tax cuts to fight bracket creep and scrapping the new 39 per cent bracket which kicks in at salaries over $NZ180,000 ($A165,000).

The cumulative effect is huge tax breaks for the rich and small change for the poor at a time when cost of living pressures are biting hard.

In a difficult interview with broadcaster Tova O'Brien, Mr Luxon was forced to accept if he was prime minister, he would be receiving a $NZ18,000 tax break under his plan, while an average worker got just $NZ800.

"I personally don't (need the tax break) but we think it's important to be able to attract people to New Zealand," he told Today FM.

His bracket creep plan also has the unfortunate effect of being inflationary itself, leading to criticism from policy wonks.

In another challenging sit-down with QandA host Jack Tame, Mr Luxon said government spending was causing inflation but could not name substantive examples of poor spending.

"There is dumb stuff, there is wasteful spending going on ... small actions make up to a big difference," he insisted.

There have been other stumbles.

Mr Luxon repeatedly said he would scrap a public holiday - suggesting Labour Day - as a retort to Ms Ardern's government introducing a new day off for Matariki, the celebration of the Maori New Year.

Mr Luxon backed off on his "facetious" suggestion after being challenged by Labour.

National is also being challenged to sharpen up its health policy from outright opposition to something more constructive.

The government is centralising New Zealand's health system with a multi-billion dollar reform including the introduction of a Maori Health Authority.

The new body will give Maori more control over health provision in the hope of improving Maori health indicators, which lag alarmingly behind.

National decries the model as separatist, and Mr Luxon says it would "end up creating a massive amount of bureaucracy".

Missing from the party's contribution are policies on how to lengthen, support and improve Maori lives.

Still, the party is likely to win its next electoral test: a by-election in the party heartland of Tauranga, following the resignation of National MP Simon Bridges.

But even that contest brings downside for Mr Luxon, given Mr Bridges was a formidable member of caucus and one of only three Maori MPs in National's partyroom of 33.

After pledging to improve the diversity of his team, Ms O'Brien embarrassed Mr Luxon by confirming the party's possible Tauranga candidates are all men and non-Maori.

"We don't have the diversity we want in the National party but we will in 2023," he insisted, blaming the party's 2020 election wipe-out for his mainly white and male team.

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