The Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle have delayed the National leader delivering his State of the Nation speech by three weeks, but Christopher Luxon told Newsroom the severe weather events haven’t required any real changes to be made.

While Luxon didn’t want to divulge any of the detail ahead of taking the stage in front of party faithful and Auckland community guests in Parnell on Sunday morning, he confirmed there would be a policy announcement.

* Water charges could be hiked under National’s policy
* Luxon’s puzzling brain fade

National’s caucus has spent the past 12 months under Luxon’s leadership working on its policy for election year – the first of those were revealed last weekend when the party’s alternative to the Government’s Three Waters was unveiled.

Luxon described that announcement to Newsroom as a “good case in point, where we’ve actually done the work, solved the problem, and we’ve got a great solution in place that is well supported by the councils, the public and infrastructure experts”.

While ditching the centralised approach Labour is proposing under Three Waters and replacing it with National’s council-controlled organisations (CCOs) has support from some councils, there are still question marks over how much it will cost and what sort of hikes ratepayers can expect.

Luxon has doubled down saying ratepayers won’t face increases, while at the same time saying one option for CCOs is to increase water charges.

That is simply being cute and regardless of where the cost increase occurs, it’s an extra burden on the public and Luxon needs to be transparent about that.

It shows either an unwillingness to be upfront about the costs or a case of not being across the details – whichever it is, it isn’t befitting of someone auditioning to be prime minister.

Luxon needs to cut through the language he is so accustomed to using when talking to a room full of business leaders and articulate what gets him up in the morning and what keeps him awake at night.

Much of the criticism of Luxon in the past six months has been centred around what policies his party would adopt and where it would make savings in a cost-of-living crisis with sky-high inflation.

It appears the answers to at least some of those questions are about to start arriving in the form of a rolling maul of policy announcements.

“It’s just a case of sequencing it. We had Three Waters last week, there will be an announcement this weekend, then obviously we’ve been working on other things to come as well,” he told Newsroom.

Beyond the policies though Luxon also needs to find a way to connect with the public.

Polling over his time as leader suggests while the National Party has had an uptick in support, people aren’t so convinced about the guy steering the ship with preferred prime minister, favourability and trust polling still sitting uncomfortably low seven months out from an election.

For that reason, Luxon needs to use this weekend’s address to sell his vision for the country and what a National-led government would look like under his reign.

There’s no point delivering a speech that talks about his corporate real-life experience, how he “gets things done”, and is filled with any number of acronyms, catchphrases, and word soup that plagues most of his interviews of late.

Luxon needs to cut through the language he is so accustomed to using when talking to a room full of business leaders and articulate what gets him up in the morning and what keeps him awake at night.

Policies and practical things National would do differently to Labour are all good and well but a decent chunk of voters make their choice based on how relatable the person leading the team is.

Luxon has done very little so far to convince people as to what he’s about, what he believes in, what his natural instincts would be in a crisis (New Zealand certainly seems to have a few of them) and which qualities and attributes he’d bring to the ninth-floor table in the Beehive.

Focus groups and polling to date reflects that, and broadly shows while voters don’t mind him, they don’t really know anything about him other than that time he ran Air New Zealand.

The National Party has been holding off on its leader’s big agenda-setting speech for the year while the country reeled from the damage done by Cyclone Gabrielle.

On Friday the national state of emergency was dropped for all regions except Tairāwhiti and Hawkes Bay – clearing the air somewhat for the Opposition to get back in the political fray.

But it’s not politicking and a list of things National doesn’t like about Labour that Luxon needs to deliver on Sunday.

He has a chance to let people get inside his head and understand what makes him tick – an opportunity that he doesn’t have time to waste.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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