This week's budget has confirmed fears about New Zealand's slipping standard of living, says National Party leader Don Brash.

He said in Nelson on Friday that there was no sign of living standards improving in comparison with other developed countries, as the Government had promised when it came to power in 1999.

"In my view the most worrying thing was not what the budget did, but what it said," he said.

Dr Brash was speaking to about 300 people at the Nelson Grey Power Association annual meeting at the Trafalgar Centre.

He said he had decided to enter politics two years ago because he was concerned about the slide in New Zealand's living standards against other countries such as Australia. New Zealand was "well down the totem pole" of developed countries, he said.

But according to treasury forecasts in the budget, the economy was set to grow more slowly over the next 10 years than it had in the past 10 years, he said.

And the Government was no longer putting a date on its target of moving New Zealand up the "developed country ladder".

"At this point there's no prospect of achieving that in the next 10 or 20 years. The gap between us and Australia will get wider. And the risk is that it will become more difficult to reverse," he said.

Dr Brash also criticised budget projections that the number of people on sickness, unemployment and other benefits was set to keep rising.

"The budget was ostensibly about helping people get off benefits and into work. That's a good thing to do," he said.

But the fact that beneficiary numbers were still expected to increase was very worrying, he said.

"The financial cost is very large and the human cost is larger still."

Dr Brash said there was no "quick fix" solution to raising living standards, but measures required included improving infrastructure such as roads and electricity.

He said the Resource Management Act was slowing up the building of new roads and power stations, and National was committed to making major changes to the legislation if it became government.

National's Nelson MP Nick Smith also spoke at the meeting, criticising Treaty of Waitangi "political correctness" in the health and local government sectors.

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