New Zealand's prime ministerial aspirants have shared a stage in a feisty and argumentative first leaders' debate of the election campaign.
Labour leader Chris Hipkins went toe-to-toe with National's opposition leader Christopher Luxon in a 90-minute televised debate on Tuesday night.
With no clear knockout punch, Mr Luxon might be considered the winner, given his party has an average nine-point lead across polls.
However, Mr Luxon startled when he suggested his centre-right party "invented" the "by Maori for Maori" approach to service delivery, and veered from party policy on school lunches.
A high-speed rapid-fire question format maxed out confrontation between the two, who duelled on crime, health and power-sharing with Maori.
Mr Hipkins conceded poor government performance on several fronts, including mental health, crime and public safety and house-building, acknowledging deficiencies in his opening statement.
"I'm not promising perfection, but I will be honest with you and I will have your back," he said.
In keeping with Labour's increasingly negative campaign, Mr Hipkins used his opening thirty seconds to deliver attack lines about the prospect of a National government.
"You don't deal with the climate crisis by sitting on your hands," he said.
"You don't make housing more affordable by bringing back foreign millionaires and you don't help with the cost of living by cutting jobs and critical public services."
In contrast, Mr Luxon said the campaign was about one issue: the economy.
"New Zealanders watching tonight know we're going backwards and that the economy is in bad shape," he said.
"It doesn't have to be like this. We can be so much better."
Mr Luxon enjoyed a strong spell when discussing his business background as Air New Zealand chief executive, pressing his "real world leadership experience".
"I spent my whole life actually solving problems and getting things done and turning things around and to be honest, I actually think that's what New Zealand needs right now," he said.
Mr Hipkins wasn't able to land punches on National's dubious foreign homebuyers tax as the pair shouted over each other in a frenzied start.
The Labour leader came home stronger when challenging National's policies on climate change.
A pair of former MPs offered damning assessments of the leaders, who often shared the same answer during a round of one-answer questions.
"This yawnfest debate is exactly what Luxon needs. Hipkins needs a slam dunk moment. Needs to lift his game quickly," ex-Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway posted on social media.
On a post-debate panel, former National MP Tau Henare said he needed waking up as it was "boring".
Many took to social media to criticise Mr Luxon's assertion his party invented the "by Maori for Maori" approach to health services when he pledged to cut Labour's new Maori Health Authority.
The 53-year-old also said he was in favour of free school lunches for every student, an expensive policy that is not in National's suite of offerings.