Covid and political capital

Written By: - Date published: 8:28 am, March 28th, 2022 - 141 comments
Categories: covid-19, health, jacinda ardern, labour, national - Tags:

The history books will regard Jacinda Ardern as something of a political freak.  Someone who took over Labour’s leadership shortly before the 2017 election at a time where it looked like Labour may be replaced by the Greens as the second biggest party.

She campaigned like a trojan, showed Mike Hosking to be an utter twat, which he has never forgiven her for, and led the party to an unlikely victory.

She then led the country with real grace, responded magnificently to the Christchurch massacre and through the White Island disaster.

Then Covid hit.  Jacinda’s leadership and the refusal to sacrifice lives for convenience was exceptional and we found ourselves in quite a unique position where, compared to the rest of the western world, we lived normal lives the sort that other nations could only dream of.  And our body count was and remains so low compared to the rest of the world.

Initially her performance was met with accolades.  Gradually the euphoria has dimmed.

The reasons are understandable and predictable.  After two years of living on the edge enthusiasm was bound to dim.  Further incursions and lock downs have effected the collective mood, even though two of them were seen off and Delta was in the process of being sent off when Omicron hit.

And the opposition and its blow hards in the media has succeeded in sapping morale.  Relentless attack after relentless attack has gradually changed the public mood and and gradually caused some to question the handling of the pandemic.

But you have to question their logic.  Fancy in the middle of the current crisis advocating for the removal of the Traffic Light system.  National’s laissez faire instincts, that governments should do nothing, are clearly showing.

It does not matter how often you point to the body count, or to the abundance of free RAT tests, or to the success of the MIQ system, or that our health system has not been overwhelmed like pretty well every other country, or to the resilience of the economy, the opposition’s rhetoric has been relentless and has sapped some support from Labour.  Perception trumps reality every time.

Voices for Freedom and its ilk is also having an effect.  If your organisation is banned from Facebook it means that the veracity of what you say is clearly lacking.  Yet for a small group of logic resilient people VFF can do no wrong.

Its resourcing is impressive.  It still has not released information on how it is funded and the promised transparency is clearly lacking.

And businesses who have continuously attacked Ardern and called for lockdowns to end should reflect on how wrong they have been.

From this weekend’s mediawatch:

Businesses calling for restrictions to end were misidentifying the problem, [Newsroom’s Marc Daalder] said.

“It goes back to magical thinking about what the alternative was to elimination or tightly controlling the virus. It was never going to be ‘sure the hospitals are full, and sure, 1 in 20 people in the city has Covid right now that we know of, but I’m still going to go out and pretend there’s nothing different from 2019’. It was always going to be ‘well hang on, there’s a pandemic, I’m going to do things a bit differently’. Congratulations, we opened up. This is living with Covid.”

The country is the midst of a full blown omicron hit but it is similar yet different to what has happened overseas.

Compared to Australia our peak looks similar.  But their absolute catastrophe of a roll out of rapid antigen tests must have affected the collection of their data.

Here is the new case comparison on a per capita basis:

And here is the death comparison on a per capita basis:

Yesterday in Aotearoa total new cases were 10,239 and there were 1,886 new cases in Auckland.  The number of people in hospital has reduced from over a thousand to 848 in the past week.

And it is not as if our arrangements have been more stringent than others.

What is the cause of our success so far?  It helps that we had time to see what was happening overseas and each time the response was deft and science based.  MIQ bought us important time. Eradication was clearly the right thing to do pre Omicron.

It is clear that our vaccination rates have helped significantly.  This may be an unpopular opinion but the mandate system has incentivised vaccination uptake to levels I did not think possible.

These decisions involved the burning of significant political capital by Jacinda Ardern.  National did something comparable last term when it rolled out the partial privatisation of the energy companies.  There are differences.  Ardern’s behaviour was motivated by the desire to save lives.  John Key’s actions were motivated by the desire to enrich his mates.

I am surprised that Labour’s support has held up to the levels it has.  It has sacrificed historically high political support to get back to the usual situation of the major parties being level pegging but many of us owe our lives and our whanau’s lives to this.

The Covid death rate is getting similar to the road death rate.  The desire to go back into lockdown, while understandable at one level, is not something that most of the population would tolerate.

The primary point of this post, and I will repeat it, is that Jacinda Ardern has burned significant political capital on dealing with Covid.  But it is something that a responsible Political leader, of which there are few, would do.

141 comments on “Covid and political capital ”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    I think a problem with politics in general is that politicians have conditioned people to believe that the government can solve all their problems.

    Therefore, whenever things start going pear-shaped in the economy people hold the government responsible because they believe the government can solve all their problems, even though that may not be the case.

    So far as the Covid situation in NZ goes, there is no reason to believe that National also wouldn't have printed and pumped money into the economy to keep things going. After all, that is what they did with the Christchurch earthquake. And we are living in a world environment where other countries were doing exactly the same.

    Therefore, the hangover phase of possibly the largest monetary stimulus in the history of humanity was going to be high world inflation, and likely stagflation.

    If I was going to criticise the government for anything it is that they didn't flag to the population ahead of time what the consequences of supporting the economy would likely be. However, I am not convinced that National would have done that either.

    Perhaps this will be a lesson to governments about how they should communicate to the community about the likely effect of policy interventions in terms of upsides and downsides.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      You don’t comment on National’s likely health response, which given what the US, UK and Australian Governments responses I suspect is rather easy to predict. Daalder’s comment also suggests heavily that economic conditions are highly dependent on how people are feeling.

      Good try with the complaint about inflation. A deeper dive clearly shows that it is based on international conditions and National’s complaint is frankly dishonest.

      • tsmithfield 1.1.1

        I disagree. The international environment was certainly part of it. But the government was warned by the RB over a year ago of the likely outcome of all this, and didn't do anything I can see to prepare Kiwis for the consequences of all this.

        As I said, I think National would have done the same, so I am not criticising the response. Just the failure of not communicating to the public that there are two sides to this coin.

        • Dennis Frank

          the failure of not communicating to the public

          Perhaps Grant's failure to do that is more obvious than real? It could be argued that ministers of finance play only a figurehead role nowadays.

          I mean if the requirement of communicating the likely consequences of his economic policy to the public had actually been inserted into his job description, he might have noticed it and acted accordingly, eh?

        • Craig H

          I'm not sure the economy would have held up without the wage subsidies which were the biggest single fiscal injection, particularly the first one which was essentially in response to some pretty dire predictions from Treasury.

          With the luxury of hindsight, the wage subsidies were overly generous as they could have been restricted to a maximum number of jobs and total dollar amount as in the original design before National's campaign on the subject successfully changed Cabinet's mind, but once that decision was made, it would have been difficult to unwind it (a point made by a speaker from MSD at the IPANZ conference I attended online earlier this year).

          Total bond issuance/purchase by RBNZ was a maximum of $100 Billion but was halted in July 2021 at $53 Billion, so in hindsight, it could have been less, but it was less than the total Covid spending by over $20 Billion (albeit $4 Billion is still unspent per the below information).

 has total spending of $73 Billion and a breakdown of that spending in a handy graph (and a link to a spreadsheet of all the spending), with $24.5 Billion on MSD (mostly wage subsidy, but also benefit and winter energy payment increases, contact centre and other staff operations etc), $11.2 Billion on Revenue (IRD runs various other business support schemes and also things like changes in tax rules and the lossback scheme), $7.4 Billion on Health (vaccines and vaccination programme etc), $5.5 Billion on MBIE (sector-based business support e.g. tourism industry, MIQ, regulatory work, contact centre and other staff operations etc).

          Maybe we could have spent a bit less and borrowed a bit less, but looking back to March and April 2020, I personally can't blame Cabinet for taking decisions to support the people and the economy with various measures that turned out to be successful.

        • Nic the NZer

          I find this whole line of reasoning both partisan and disingenuous. The underlying question is of course how much government spending can be held responsible for present inflation. Bryce Edwards covers this quite well here,

          His conclusion is that domestic demand is not responsible for inflation at present. In the inflation statistics we can be sure of this because a lot of the price increases are in the Tradables sector, e.g imported goods. This is consistent with other countries where the price increases in these sectors has also been observed. This shows that the underlying argument being put here is fundamentally just partisan in nature.

          Its also worth highlighting that the analysis by the reserve bank was that inequality was likely to be impacted by QE, not that inflation would take off. There is no straight line from monetary policy through to domestic inflation there to be communicated, and arguably the RBNZ could be accused of being overly political if they claimed knowledge of such a direct link (because its at best very hard to prove).

          So onto the disingenuous bit. In the discussion about QE there are two reasonable counter factual's to how the country proceeded.

          1) The country proceeds with the pandemic response, including the lock-down spend, but avoiding QE as a monetary policy tool.

          2) The country locks down without anything like the fiscal policy response.

          In the case of 1 its highly likely that the interest on government debt would have gone through the roof. But people would still have had the same income across lock-down. A reasonable assessment of this seems to be that inflation would be similar and the government debt interest would be considerably higher. Additionally some private interest rates would likely have been higher.

          In the case of 2 its highly likely that the economy would have gone into recession. Unemployment would have gone considerably higher. This would have likely slowed the housing market at least until the economy bottomed out and started growing again. I also think that Labour would have been thrown out of office.

          The disingenuous bit is that the people pushing the anti QE line are proposing response 2 outcomes. This may be because they think the deficit spending was only possible due to QE but they are essentially proposing that the government should have thrown the economy into recession to curb the housing market. This would be completely unfair and an unreasonable response. Its also the sort of thing no government intentionally does to its economy if it can be avoided.

          On the other hand the discussion is couched around 1, which is to not use QE and ignore the fiscal policy happening at the time. As far as I can see the fiscal policy around lock-down didn't boost domestic spending to the extent that its generating inflation (merely avoided lock-down induced recession) and alternative monetary policies would not have fundamentally changed peoples housing market behavior across the lock-downs anyway.

          • Blazer

            Very good Nick…you are very brave to take on Smithfield with his economic credentials.

            I do not have a degree in economics ,but I must say I agree with most of your conclusions,except for this…

            ' alternative monetary policies would not have fundamentally changed peoples housing market behavior across the lock-downs anyway.'

            My view is that raising interest rates(monetary policy) ,would have put a handbrake on the explosion of house price increases.

            • Nic the NZer

              "My view is that raising interest rates(monetary policy), would have put a handbrake on the explosion of house price increases."

              That is possible. But I tend to look at the evidence before drawing that as a causal conclusion. I don't see that interest rates have been effective in NZ across the following charts.



              We have had high percentage house price increases with both high interest rates and low interest rates.

              Also practically there is also the problem that interest rate hikes seem to hit employers credit lines before house buyers or investors credit. I mean if the mechanism is Volker level interest rate hikes -> recession -> unemployment -> house prices, then I don't think that the RBNZ should act that way, or would (they backed off pretty hard after raising rates to early in 2014).

              I do think that some other govt policies have been actually effective such as the removal of mortgage interest deductibility in this regard however.

              • Blazer

                'We have had high percentage house price increases with both high interest rates and low interest rates.'

                Very interesting…the data since 2008 would make interesting reading..I'm sure.

                ' interest rate hikes seem to hit employers credit lines before house buyers or investors credit'

                Fascinating,I always thought the banks focus is on property equity as security re credit lines.

                Of course if you are talking multi national corporations …that is absolute b/s.

                • Nic the NZer

                  Your implying the data since 2008 is the only relevant part of those charts? On the contrary, considering higher interest rates and their effects on house price increases its before 2008 that is relevant.

                  Essentially what your looking at with house price changes, its similar to present inflation, the biggest impacts on it are clearly imported to a large extent.

                  And re credit, secured lending is part of that mechanism, yes. When credit tightens you cut off the unsecured or less secured creditors first, so businesses lose credit before the better secured mortgagees.

                  • Blazer

                    So how far do you think it is useful to go back regarding data that is relevant to today?

                    The whole paradigm changes imo when events like going off the GS and the advent of rampant Q.E occur.

                    'with house price changes, its similar to present inflation, the biggest impacts on it are clearly imported to a large extent.'

                    This is contrary to what we are 'told'…a)its a supply issue-b)low interest rates are the main..factor.

                    I may have to consult smithfield for his educated ..opinion.

                    • Nic the NZer

                      If you have a causal theory it ought to explain all of the data. If it doesn't explain all the data it is at best incomplete and if your theory is valid it had better be evident from the mechanism why there should be a series break there.

                    • Blazer

                      @Nic…thank you for your reply,laugh which is obsfucation deserving of…a medallion.

                  • Poission

                    the economy is completely different to 2008,where there was a high level of distrust towards the banks (with their gambling problems) the high level of stability ensured by Central banks saw a huge increase in involuntary savings by both households and business.

                    Another way of interpreting these rises in the money supply is as the financial counterpart of the excess, or
                    involuntary, savings accumulated by households and companies during the Covid crisis. These reflect the
                    combined effects of restrictions on spending at the same time as relatively stable incomes. In the US, these
                    excess savings total around $1½ trillion and in the euro-area almost $½ trillion, although these savings are
                    unevenly distributed across household types.
                    In the UK, the picture is much the same. Excess savings currently total around £150 billion for households
                    and over £100 billion for companies, with the lion’s share of these savings are in highly liquid bank deposits.
                    This leaves money growth, or accumulated liquid savings, in a very different position than at the time of the GFC.


                    Here in NZ non financial business increased their bank deposits by 25B$ Households 31B$ over the last 2 years.

                    The markets here are already pricing in a 50 point rise for the next RBNZ statement so it predictable,as is the US feds indication of 6 rises to a total 1.5% increase over the next 6 meetings this year.

                    What we do not need is an increase in Capital expenditure from either central or local government as this is only fueling an over extended construction market.

                    A more balanced re adjustment of the spending to more efficient systems is more sustainable.

                    global financial crisis

                    • Nic the NZer

                      Your saying there is a 'level of distrust towards the banks' variable which controls how interest rate hikes impact inflation, and its value separates the series into before 2008 and after 2008?

                      Because as far as I can see that just shows this theory is incomplete (and as far as I can tell its the same as it ever was how monetary policy is supposed to work).

                    • Poission

                      No its the output gap,the constraints householders and business have applied during covid,due to the Austerity that was applied by Banks during the GFC and the low growth following the great recession.

                      Following the GFC money flowed from Banks,equities etc into low risk bonds (gvt etc) The distrust was with the banks who were using covenant provisions to sure up their own capital risks.

                      Haldane in the provided link suggests as such the level of scarring can also be de inflationary as war chests stay untouched.

                      There are contrasting views among economists about the pace at which these output gaps will close. The
                      MPC’s central view is that the UK’s output gap will close this year, although uncertainty around the timing and pace is considerable. A key factor, as after the global financial crisis and the Great Depression, will be the extent and persistence of psychological scarring among lenders, households and companies.
                      The deeper and longer-lasting these psychological scars, the slower the likely pace of recovery, the more
                      persistent the output gap and the greater the disinflationary drag from the Covid crisis. For example, if the level of output in the UK economy were to return to pre-Covid levels in 2023, rather than 2022 in the MPC’s central case, this would lower inflation by around 60 basis points at the two-year horizon, leaving it comfortably below its 2% target.

                      With a high level of local saving,NZ is less at risk from losing liquid assets offshore (quickly) as happened during the GFC.The risk at present is the higher inflation,eroding those local savings.

          • mickysavage

            Thanks Nick and good comment. Tsmithfiels's comment is straight out of the "decades of deficits" slogan that National came up with in 2008. Also non reality based but also designed to feed into the narrative that Labour are lousy managers of the economy.

        • Hongi Ika

          It would have been a Trump like response from National ?

    • Blazer 1.2

      'If I was going to criticise the government for anything it is that they didn't flag to the population ahead of time what the consequences of supporting the economy would likely be. '

      And what were …they?

      • tsmithfield 1.2.1

        Have you been living in a cave somewhere for the last couple of years?

        In case you haven't noticed high and increasing cost of living.

        • Blazer

          So you are blaming that on the Govt’s Covid response.

          Can you expand on how that caused the higher cost of living?

          • tsmithfield

            Read the link on my previous post.

            Economics 101. Supply and demand. Increasing the supply of something reduces its value. The same with currency. So when the government engaged in quantitative easing and thus increasing the money supply, it meant that the value of finite goods went up accordingly. The goods themselves hadn't really increased in value. Just that the value of money had decreased.

            An obvious proof of that was the increasing value of house prices. If someones house had really increased in value by say $300000 then they should be able to buy something much superior in the similar location. But the fact that everyone is "buying in the same market" shows that it is actually inflation causing the rise in prices not a real increase in value.

            A real increase in value would occur if, say, someone did something to improve the value of their house by adding another room or something like that.

            • Blazer

              You are scrambling now…the Govt decides fiscal policy,monetary policy -i.e interest rates,is the domain of the RB.

              You said '

              In case you haven't noticed high and increasing cost of living.'

              If in fact you meant house prices increased,you should have been more definitive.

              House prices have been increasing for more than a decade.So covid response as the cause is a tenuous premise.

              As MS has pointed out ,external factors…like oil prices,supply chains are at play re cost of living increases.

              And no,I have not been living in a….cave.

              • tsmithfield

                Don't argue with me. Argue with the Reserve Bank. But I guess they wouldn't know what they are talking about.


                "Grant Robertson and the Government were warned in January 2020 that there was a ‘significant’ risk Reserve Bank money printing would push up house prices and deepen inequality. Despite calls from the Reserve Bank that the Government would need to act to blunt the effects of this, nearly 13 months later, nothing has been done.

                In November last year, when the national median house price hit $749,000 – up by more than $100,000 on the year before – Grant Robertson sent a now famous letter to Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr.

                Since March, the Reserve Bank had been printing tens of billions of dollars and pumping it into the economy using something called LSAP (Large-Scale Asset Purchases). The LSAP worked; New Zealand's unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent is well below where economists feared it might be.

                But the LSAP has had some negative side effects too. Asset purchases have pushed interest rates down, unleashing a wave of cheap lending that has sent the housing market rocket to record highs in the midst of a global recession."

                It is only that the rest of the world has been doing exactly the same thing that we aren’t like Zimbabwe right now.

                But the effect is to increase inflation. Some of that is imported. Some of it has caused local effects here. But it is all for the same reason.

                But to say it is all due to imported inflation is inaccurate.
                We have managed to generate a good portion of that ourselves.

                This is all economics 101 btw. I should know because I did economics 101 as part of my degree.

                • Blazer

                  This is/was your argument…

                  'If I was going to criticise the government for anything it is that they didn't flag to the population ahead of time what the consequences of supporting the economy would likely be. '


                  'In case you haven't noticed high and increasing cost of living.'

                  We are aware of the dialogue between the RB and the Govt.

                  You, after the fact, are blaming the Govt for not warning the population,that Q.E would lead to an increase in the cost of living.

                  Where are the politicians of any stripe warning that rising house prices affect the cost of living?surprise

                  So in effect you have no criticism of the Govt,afterall.

                  Btw the Govt does not set interest rates!

                  • tsmithfield

                    My argument at the start was that governments of all stripes have conditioned people to believe that governments can solve all their problems.

                    A consequence of that is that governments become unpopular when governments don't solve their problems (even if it is something outside the government's control).

                    This is where I think Labour is at the moment. Though, if National were in the same position, I don't think they would have done any better, because it is a fault of governments generally.

                    Thus, if governments were to communicate accurately to people the upsides and likely downsides of any particular policy in advance, then people may be more willing to accept the downside consequences when they occur.

                    So, if people knew in advance that stimulating the economy through printing and borrowing money was going to help support them keep their jobs etc, but there would be a future downside to that of high inflation then they wouldn't be so surprised when it actually happened.

                    I actually think it is a good time to be in opposition at the moment. Because the opposition can build on the misconception that people have about what the government can and can’t control.

                    Until they are in government again, of course.

                    • Blazer

                      Q.E has been rampant since 2008….14 years!


                      'This is all economics 101 btw. I should know because I did economics 101 as part of my degree.'

                      O.k,maybe you can tell me why a pint of milk used to cost 4c and now costs $2.All ears.laugh


                    • RedLogix

                      The mass retirement of the boomer generation, from capital investors to capital consumers meant there was always going to be a capital crunch this decade. Demographics had baked inflation into the economic cake anyway – and now we just got the COVID whipped cream and a dollop of Putin war cherries on the top.

                      So yes I tend to agree with you – this was largely beyond any nation state to control.

                    • Incognito

                      Nope. Your actual argument is that government is the cause of all problems, one way or another.

                      … because it is a fault of governments generally.

                      I have a strong suspicion about what your next reply is gonna be …

                    • tsmithfield

                      "O.k,maybe you can tell me why a pint of milk used to cost 4c and now costs $2.All ears.laugh"

                      I agree with Redlogix below. But creation of money has definitely played a part. And not all RB. You may not realise, but commericial banks also "create" money that feeds into the system. You may find this link interesting:


                    • Blazer

                      @smithfield….I realise all right.

                      Not looking for a tutorial via your link.

                      As you have an advanced understanding of 'economics 101'…was just interested in your take on the Q I posed…given your prior conclusions .

                    • tsmithfield

                      "Nope. Your actual argument is that government is the cause of all problems, one way or another."

                      I think the root cause of the problem I have described is that politicians are often dishonest for the sake of political expediency.

                      For instance, I have heard the government arguing on a number of occasions that the reason for inflation now is that it is imported from overseas. Whereas the opposition is arguing that it is all the governments fault for too much money printing, borrowing, and poor spending.

                      In fact, neither position is correct. I think an accurate perspective is what I have described; that some inflation is imported, and some is generated locally.

                      People would probably trust politicians more if they gave balanced assessments on policies rather than talking up the positive and denying the negative for the sake of expediency.

                    • Incognito []

                      Sounds like you’re agreeing with me then by clearly pointing the finger at politicians, still or again. People are not stupid despite what you believe they believe who can solve their problems, whatever you believe they are.

                    • Descendant Of Smith

                      "My argument at the start was that governments of all stripes have conditioned people to believe that governments can solve all their problems."

                      I see it the other way round. In the 80's we started seeing the private sector blaming governments for their woes. This was strident – can't make money – too much regulation, can't pay my staff more – too much tax. Can't turn a profit – too much unionism. Everything was the governments fault according to employers.

                      Even when they got less regulation, less tax, less unions they still blame the government. Most managers in NZ are pretty incompetent. They have survived on the baby boomers who failed to pay back their free education when they reached peak earning power, a cohort who had loads of disposable income through benefiting from low home ownership costs, lots if inheritances, two incomes and kids left home (dinkies) and lower tax rates than the generation before and more latterly due to high raters of homeownership benefitted from interest tax breaks on second properties and massive capital gains (leading also to stealing working peoples incomes through rent).

                      The baby boom gravy train was always going to come to an end as that population dies off. I'm not sure in NZ we have the management capability needed to pull us through – even simple things like employing the future workforce of which a far greater proportion than their generation young Maori is currently beyond most of them.

                      The private sector over the last forty years has been given every opportunity to improve New Zealand. The fact is they have dismally failed. We see that failure all around us.

                      Lets not forget that the private sector was warned about the possibility of a pandemic and had, had several close calls with Ebola, SARS and H1N1 amongst others. Where is their strategic planning, their consideration of supply chains did any company in New Zealand make provision? These highly paid executives failed to understand the risk and failed to plan accordingly. They buried their heads in the sand like ostriches. Bunch of useless fuckwits.

                • tsmithfield

                  Take the money printing and inflation situation:

                  People undoubtably were very grateful at the time when action was taken to shore up the economy when there jobs were at risk due to the pandemic. But that may have been all that they were considering. They probably viewed that the government had solved their problems and all would be OK.

                  But now, with prices rising rapidly, and those who don't own a house yet further away than ever from owning one, many probably hold the government as responsible for that, without realising that the two things are connected.

                  But if the government had said at the outset that this was the action to be taken due to the dire circumstances the country was facing, and what other countries were doing as well, but there would likely be an inflation consequence several years down the road, they may not be finding their popularity dropping as it is now.

    • pat 1.3

      There is undoubtably one inflation the RBNZ (and various administrations) can be held accountable for….housing inflation.

      Rents and (now) mortgage servicing have increased substantially due to both monetary policy and government policies.

      The current (largely offshore generated) CPI inflation simply compounds the problems.

      Blaming however dosnt change anything in the immediate term ( it may in the future if blame correctly apportioned) and how the current circumstances are addressed is of import…and tax cuts to the well off dosnt address the problems.

      And as long as the politicians and vested interests continue to misidentify housing supply as the issue we are unlikely to correct our previous mistakes.

  2. Dennis Frank 2

    She seemed to be operating on autopilot during 2021. Almost as if there was a consensual view within the govt that progressing their agenda was no longer possible. Inevitably, the public sensed this detachment and the protest crystallised it into disenchantment in the minds of too many.

    So perception of her leadership competence & eye on the ball took a hit. The interesting thing now is whether she can resume policy delivery or not. Posturing by the opposition is usually irrelevant. Runs on the board is what counts for the govt team.

    I'm inclined to agree that her burning of political capital is accurate framing, and doing so via pandemic management is appropriate public service. Problem is, those things seem beside the point for those of us interested in the future of this government. I'd like to see an emergence of collective leadership to support her.

    • Anne 2.1

      I can't fault what you have said @ 2 Dennis. Pretty much what has happened. During the course of the last year the general public has sensed she is – to put it bluntly – suffering from burn-out and in need of a good holiday. And of course the Nats and ACT have been feasting off the situation without a thought for the country, the economy or anything else. That is the Nats for you.

      I don't know whether others have noticed how gaunt she is looking. The constant barrage of malicious claims, the increasingly nasty and misogynistic memes, the postponements of her marriage have all taken their toll. I can only hope the public, the media and her opponents will have the decency to leave her alone and let her have a good, long break around Easter.

      • Dennis Frank 2.1.1

        Yes, I've felt similar empathy in regard to her situation. That's why I was pointing out the lack of supporting collective leadership. The team thing can be made to apply to her colleagues too (including the Greens co-leaders) not just the 5 million.

      • Belladonna 2.1.2

        I doubt an Easter break will cut it. She had (in theory) a long break over the summer. However, I don't think Adern is one of the people who can just 'switch off'. That's neither good, nor bad – but it does make it more likely that you will burn out.

        She's also carrying virtually the whole weight of the Labour caucus. Even high-flyers like Hipkins can also fall over his feet and trigger or make worse a bad news story. cf the Charlotte Bellis story – regardless of your opinion of Bellis, Hipkins made the PR situation worse.

        She had a dream run with the media in her first term, and during the first 18 months of Covid (akin to Teflon John at his best) – but it's over. And media are like sharks in the water at the first sign of weakness.

        • Anne

          She had (in theory) a long break over the summer.

          Theory only I suspect. Omicron had reared its ugly head by then and I expect the inner circle (Ardern, Robertson, Hipkins and Little) were in constant communication – together with senior Health ministry officials – preparing for the Omicron battle which lay ahead.

          • Belladonna

            So, Easter won't be any different then. Not only Omicron, but an increasingly important (to ambitions for a third term) budget to finalize.

    • Incognito 2.2

      Nope. It was anything but “autopilot”. They were making decisions on the fly, quickly responding to rapid changes and new data & information, and building the plane while they were flying it. When you hit a shitstorm you don’t go or stay on autopilot. You seem to have completely missed the point made in the Post – a fundamental misrepresentation of this Government’s actions in 2021!

      • Dennis Frank 2.2.1

        As you can see, Anne agreed with my analysis & she's a Labour supporter. smiley However I do agree with you re their pragmatic response to the changing covid situation. My comments were in relation to the agenda they entered this term with. 2021 seemed to be a year in which they put that on hold. Given that govts tend to prosper on the basis of delivery of expected policy legislation…

        • Incognito

          ‘I know many people saying the same thing and many are agreeing with me’. That paraphrases the idiosyncratic response of a regular commenter who shall not be named and who’s been sitting in Pre-Moderation since 15 March 🙂 It is not a strong argument, is it?

          Circumstances change. Plans change. Deliveries change. But expectations stay the same!?

          • Dennis Frank

            expectations stay the same!?

            Yeah. Elementary voter psychology: they promised to do this & that so I voted for them to do it, looks like I wasted my vote, won't make that mistake again…

            • Incognito

              Nah, that’s neither “Elementary voter psychology” nor [voter] “expectation”, it would be more like an oath you’d sworn in blood and on your ancestors’ graves buried in a time capsule to be unearthed in 2023 for the general election. Nobody is that ‘thick’! People realise that we’ve all seen and experienced enormous turmoil and upheaval and still are. People hardly remember what happened in politics last week let alone what was promised on the campaign trail in 2020. You’re looking for some mystical feeling or emotional state about which tribal cult to support in 2023 and there’s very little rational reasoning involved in that.

              • Dennis Frank

                It's what drives the binary flip-flop that centrist mainstreamers usually perform at our elections. Political scientists normally frame them as swing-voters who tend to reject incumbent govts due to feeling dissatisfied. This group has long been identified as the crucial target of election campaigns.

                • Incognito

                  Well, if “feeling dissatisfied” stems from disappointing “delivery of expected policy legislation” [my italics] you would have a point. For example, I feel dissatisfied because Government hasn’t fulfilled my expectation of reviewing and reforming the Official Information Act, which has been parked. I feel even more dissatisfied with the price of a cabbage. I feel dissatisfied with so many things frown In election campaigns some try to stoke those general feelings of dissatisfaction and weaponise them against the incumbents whilst promising a ‘brighter future’.

  3. James Simpson 3

    In my view governments rarely get "rewarded" for the good the things they have done, but they get severely punished for the things they have failed to do (or in the eyes of the media, they have failed to do).

    Next years election won’t be a performance review of Jacinda’s leadership during the pandemic. It will be a pile on with respect to things largely outside of her control. Inflation fuelled by Putin’s war, a housing crisis and violent crime.

  4. Ad 4

    We will never know if National would have done any better; counterfactuals are odious.

    The simple question is whether Ardern can lead Labour to recovery. It's an open question.

    Scott Morrison led a near identical COVID response and is up for re-election in months.

    Ardern should see what such claimed political capital amounts to.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      Yup. At present Morrison is trailing in the polls. Not much evidence of a COVID related bump at all.

      And word of mouth tells me that the uber locked down WA is also going through the same Omicron related surge NZ is with hospitals overflowing.

      • Anne 4.1.1

        Except NZ's hospitals are busy, but not over-flowing. Lack of staff due to Omicron is a problem but thus far they are coping well as far as I can see.

        • Belladonna

          Medical professionals don't agree with you. Omicron has hit a hospital system already creaking under the strain of under-investment over the last 20 years (so both major parties culpable).

          Talking to nurses I know (this is in Auckland – where the 'peak' has passed) – there are still patients waiting for 20+ hours to be seen in A+E, people still lying in corridors because there are no beds in the wards, nurses feeling pressured to extend shifts – because there is no cover. People burned out, and wanting to get out.

          Andrew Little and Kris Faafoi have a lot to answer for in shutting down the immigration pathway for medical professionals during 2020 and the first part of 2021. We desperately need those nurses (and radiologists, lab technicians, etc.) right now – and will in the years to come. Even if there is a massive investment in locally-trained talent (which there should be) – it takes 5-10 years to train a specialist nurse.

          Restructuring the DHBs looks (to the ordinary Kiwi) like shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic.

          • Incognito

            Saying that there’s no crisis is not the same as saying that everything is fine, which is clearly not true. However, are any hospitals or DHBs reporting a ‘code Black’? There are huge issues with INZ but over the last 2 years immigration into NZ was affected by the global pandemic in a major way not just caused by our national lockdowns.

          • KJT

            "There are still patients waiting for 20+ hours to be seen in A+E, people still lying in corridors because there are no beds in the wards, nurses feeling pressured to extend shifts – because there is no cover. People burned out, and wanting to get".

            So. Not much has changed since the 90's.

            Funny that. Decades of tax cuts and expandng the population without funding in proportion, coming home to roost.

            Unreasonable to expect that to be fixed in 5 years.

            • roblogic

              All the cracks in the system get enthusiastically reported when Labour is in power, but magically disappear when some dapper white male from National takes the throne.

            • Belladonna

              I don't expect it to be fixed in 5 years. I do expect that the Government would have urgently begun steps to resolve it.
              And, neither I nor the majority of Kiwis, think that reorganization of the DHBs should have been the number one priority of a Health Minister in the midst of a one-in-a-century (we hope!) medical crisis.
              Talk about wasting political capital: 2020-21 was the time, if there ever was, to get proper resourcing for the front-line medical services; when it would have been an insanely popular move.

              Instead, Andrew Little's priority has been a restructure of the DHBs which will take 3 years (in his own estimate) to be complete.


              I also seriously question, based on past experience with centralization restructures, whether there will be significant back-end cost savings. And some of the ones touted (a single IT system) could have been imposed by Government mandate, without requiring a single Health Admin structure.

            • alwyn

              "Unreasonable to expect that to be fixed in 5 years".

              How long do you think is a fair allowance for fixing things then?

              And what would be a fair length of time to actually get started. As far as I can see our current lot of incompetents have even started on things that were promised in the 2017 campaign.

              How are they getting on with the new Dunedin Hospital for example? This link explains what they promised. What is the progress in meeting this promise?


            • Hongi Ika

              JK and National brought in 600k Asian Bat Eaters but did not build any new Hospitals to cater for those of us now suffering from the Asian Corona Covid Flu Omicron virus ?

              [Even with the missing sarc-tag your comment is vile and racist. Take a week off – Incognito]

          • KJT

            Waiting in ER and constantly postponed medical treatments were equally if not more common under Keys Government.

            Where was the media bloviating about a "crisis" back then?

          • Patricia Bremner

            A Pandemic means every country is needing more nurses and doctors.

            In 1995 my sister-in-law waited 8 hours to be admitted and signed in. The fact that DHBs have limited staffing to save money, is part of the reason Andrew Little called them fiefdoms, little kingdoms making their own rules.

            All the comments you make are negative. You know full well the borders were closed to keep the virus out. To imply Kris and Andrew did this to cause a shortage of nurses is ridiculous.

            One thing NZ needs to do is train their own. Taking trained staff from other nations is just keeping wages low and defeating any idea of a uniform system.

            You do lay blame on both Parties, but I don't see workable solutions put forward. Please don't put Reti up as opposition Minister of Health. I did not find any past complaints by him about the state of his local Hospital.

            Changing a top heavy Hospitals' management system and disparate computer systems to uniform care by well trained staff in a Pandemic is no easy task.

            Replacing out of date hospitals, like Whangarei 's is a long game.

            Building up the choice of pharmaceutical products also takes time, made more difficult with disrupted supply lines.

            These two years have felt like a lifetime, and have been constant work and change for the Government made harder by the constant bitter attacks, lies and puff pieces by shock jocks.

            On the International scene New Zealand's Government and its Leadership is admired and held up as exemplary. Locally many are blaming the Government for inflation. Yes, even when all Western economies are suffering from lack of oil supplies, loss of crops due to rapid escalation of damaging weather, and the flood of covid dollars.

            The next budget will not answer all questions or problems, but if it is people centered rather than dollar centered that will be a signal things are still moving forward towards equity. (A dirty word for some).

            • Belladonna

              I'm not implying that Faaroi and Little deliberately closed the border to keep Nurses (and other medical professionals) out of NZ. I'm saying that that was the (entirely foreseeable consequence) of their blunt policies. And, that they were told this at the time, and did nothing until too late.

              • Nothing prevented Immigration continuing to process residency applications (even if they chose to limit to skills shortage categories) during the entire lockdown period. They chose to put a blanket hold on all of them, and trumpeted this as an 'immigration reset'
              • Nothing prevented the government from issuing a blanket automatic MIQ approval for all qualified medical professionals (the 'qualified' bit has already been assessed for their immigration visa). They chose not to. Even when the approval was finally given, it only applied to people with a confirmed job offer (a bridge too far). What does NZ need more in the midst of a pandemic: nurses or entertainers?
              • Nothing prevented Little from immediately actioning the nurses pay equity claim (rather than appearing to be dragged to the table) [That may just be perception, but perception is reality in politics]. "We've known it was coming for 3 years"


              • Nothing prevented Little from immediately issuing existing DHBs with safe staffing level mandates, and requiring immediate action on them (setting up a 'review' in 2021 is too little, too late)

              The first 2 points, if implemented at the time would have given us a buffer of additional medical staff to ride out this wave of Covid (not to mention cover for the wave of medical staff leaving for Australia – with better wages and conditions).

              Finally, this Government has done nothing to drastically increase the number of medical professionals being trained in NZ. Where is the direction to the medical schools at Auckland and Otago – to double their intake numbers, each year for the next 5 years? Where are the fully funded places for nurse training (no fees, and paid living expenses)? [If you're worried about funding, then remove fees-free for Arts and Law students – NZ doesn't need them in a pandemic] Where are the student loan forgiveness schemes for medical professionals willing to work in rural/provincial areas?

              None of this is rocket science. And all of it is of more practical importance than a DHB management restructure.

              The bullet points are a missed opportunity. But there's still plenty of scope to see the rest of the suggestions in the budget this year – for immediate implementation – not, yet another, review or committee…

              • swordfish



                Hit the nail squarely on the head..

                Excellent series of comments, Belladonna.

          • pat

            Immigration department is (as far as I can see) completely dysfunctional, and has been for years…..why?

            • Anne

              Probably because it is full of little psychopaths. It's a public entity with a lot of control over other people's lives which is grist to the mill for such individuals.

              Ever had any dealings with psychopaths? They leave a trail of dysfunction and trouble wherever they go.

              An off the cuff response borne out of experience. 🙂

              • Blazer

                Wow,just wow..Anne..that is probably the most damning thing I have ever seen…here!

                • Anne

                  C, mon Blazer! You're overreacting. Emoticons are to denote a touch of tongue in cheek. Mind you, there's likely a bit of truth in it.

                  Psychopaths are all around us. They're uncles, aunts, cousins, mates, colleagues, bosses, politicians etc. Only 2% are at the extreme end of the spectrum – the ones that kill and maim.

                • Hongi Ika

                  Probably 99.9% correct based on my experiences as well.

              • pat

                The why is more a question of why its allowed to continue….if you are the Minister and things are not working as desired (and perhaps they are?) then surely you demand the CEO gets things happening on pain of position….it strikes me as one of the easier portfolios

  5. Mike the Lefty 5

    Labour's huge electoral mandate in 2020 was based primarily on Jacinda's extraordinary leadership over the three main disasters mentioned.

    She won a lot of admiration on all sides for her firm but empathetic and consultative action during the time.

    One and a half years later the accolades have turned to insults.

    Discounting the perennial gain-sayers like Mike Hosking and Des Gorman, the academics, business leaders and community leaders have one-by-one turned on Jacinda, increasingly accusing her of refusing to accept reality over COVID and the government's economic direction.

    You could argue that Labour hasn't really done anything constructive in rebuilding government structure after a near decade of National government neglect but equally you could argue that it is hard to rebuild an economy when COVID and international conflict continually whip the rug out from under your feet.

    I sense that one thing in particular has changed. Up until the last year or so the government was judged primarily on Jacinda's leadership. Whatever else happened seemed secondary to what Jacinda said or did. Now the mana of Jacinda's leadership has worn thin and now she is no longer a kind of war-time leader, but just another PM in a government that is now seen, even by its own supporters, as struggling.

    I have a great personal respect for Jacinda. I was present at a small community gathering in a Palmerston North north in 2017 when she had just taken over the Labour leadership from Andrew Little and this was one of her earliest pre-election meetings as leader. I was with a work-mate and after she spoke I turned to my friend and said: "Well…….do you think she sounds like a PM? He nodded emphatically and we both agreed. I have to think we were proved right.

    And there was another time only a month or so after she became PM when I was in Parliament grounds helping with bus transport for groups of people involved in a Special Olympics competition. The Special olympics competition was for people with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. We were using parliament grounds to marshall people into transport for different venues.

    Unexpectedly Jacinda and Grant Robertson appeared. They presumably had seen the gathering from the beehive and decided to come down and say hello to everyone. The reaction was immediate. There were shouts of "It's Jacinda….." and she was almost mobbed by excited people trying to hug her. The poor bodyguards weren't used to this and for a few moments they did what they were trained to do and tried to keep people away from her but after a short while order was regained and Jacinda spent the next few minutes hugging, shaking hands, talking and having pictures taken of her by many very happy people.

    So as a PM Jacinda is much as we would like our PM to be: accessible, empathetic but firm and willing to defend us and our interests.

    But time has moved on and that is not enough anymore. Perhaps we are looking for a leader and a government who can pull a rabbit out of a hat on demand. Jacinda and Labour can't do that: but National and/or ACT won't be able to do it either, although with the benefits of hindsight they claim they would already have done it.

    If Labour loses in 2023 we will either be judged as having moved on or as ingrates.

    • Dennis Frank 5.1

      time has moved on and that is not enough anymore. Perhaps we are looking for a leader and a government who can pull a rabbit out of a hat on demand.

      If by that you mean get her caucus to enact legislation that delivers progress, then you're right. Progressive political parties are supposed to do that. We just need Labour to get on and actually do it.

      Trotter reckons

      all those years working alongside Helen Clark and Heather Simpson had not driven home to Ardern the deep political wisdom of Clark’s “under-promise and over-deliver” formula for electoral success. The explanation for this failure is almost certainly generational.

      Government announcements about government action had become so important that the very fact an announcement was about to be made itself became the excuse for an announcement. It was as though Ardern and her colleagues believed that the announcement of a set of measures, and their accomplishment, were one and the same. To say it was to do it.

      Are they really that thick?? I hope not. Most voters know the difference between promises & results.

      • Patricia Bremner 5.1.1

        Dennis,that old card of "Are they that thick?" is wearing a bit thin. Trotter?? Prone to exaggeration and hyperbole.

        The PM was asked about mandates. The reply was "there would be an announcement on the Thursday".

        Right on cue came cries of "announcement of an announcement" . "Gotcha Politics" and your perpetuate it as meaningful?

      • Craig H 5.1.2

        The problem Labour have that National don't, is that Labour can't really bring in economic change without getting destroyed for it – too many memories of Rogernomics. I'm sure there are many in the caucus who would love to do something completely different on taxation, for example, but the electorate won't wear it.

        • Dennis Frank

          I comment here as someone who rarely agrees with the political right, usually sees the political left as inadequate, prefers radical change but will tolerate incremental progress. I don't expect much from Labour usually, but did have higher than normal hopes of this current lot.

          I take your point re timidity but I believe plenty of voters would reward Labour for any real attempt to legislate progressive policies. That's because National are so useless in comparison.

          • Belladonna

            I also think that the pandemic has offered opportunities for a seismic shift in some areas – properly resourcing the front-line health care system, for one.

            And that Labour hasn't seized these opportunities.

            Even though it's Churchillian – "Never waste a good crisis"

            • Dennis Frank

              Yeah the PM just needs to pull her team together & crack the whip. She could shift the floaters in the middle back into her camp by announcing a legislative agenda for the period up until the election campaign.

              That would remove the public unease with a govt seemingly adrift. Could be the timidity thing has gotten so contagious that she feels her caucus has succumbed & would freak out if she hit them with an action plan. Hope not!

              • Belladonna

                I, too, hope for a revolutionary budget – that has actual action for the next 18 months. No one wants yet another review or committee or plan.

          • Craig H

            In 2014, Labour got 25% of the party vote, National got 47%, while in 2020, Labour got 50% and National got 26% (all rounded to nearest whole %).

            Granted, Covid played a big part in that, but there is also a very large swing vote in the electorate (perhaps 20%), and if either Labour or National gets offside with them, they can't win elections. It would appear that taxation is one of the key triggers for swing votes to change in this context, so I can understand the timidity, even if I will be advocating for tax changes myself.

          • Mike the Lefty

            "I believe plenty of voters would reward Labour for any real attempt to legislate progressive policies…"

            One of the most effective things Labour could have done was a capital gains tax. But effectively Labour had already cancelled themselves on this one by previously promising not to do it, and Jacinda was on record saying something like it would never happen under her leadership.

            I think she must have wished she hadn't said that, because Michael Cullen's report said straight out that was the way to go, and Michael Cullen is not known for radical financial policies, he is a very cautious progressive.

            So by then it came down to either bringing in a full CGT: risking the political fall-out of breaking an explicit promise (although John Key got away with it when the National government increased GST in 2010 after promising not to do so) and more importantly risking the electoral wrath of the wealthy boomers who would be hit most. Or playing safe, keeping one's word, watching house prices increase exponentially and keeping the support of the Auckland land bankers.

            Labour have been too timorous on this issue in my opinion. I know that Jacinda doesn't want to break promises, but a CGT is perhaps one time when a promise SHOULD have been broken. Even some elements in the media have voiced this at times. Take this item from earlier this year.


  6. Reality 6

    From the start of the pandemic the PM's priority has been to first and foremost care about people.

    National/ACT's priority was firstly about opening the borders, businesses not having restrictions, still having overseas students, doing away with MIQ (without ever saying what the country was meant to do with thousands of possibly people infected arriving). Minimal comment ever about people's welfare. More concerned with being in cahoots with Michelle Boag and her lists.

    The full on rabid attacks and criticism the PM has had to endure from self-important ZB know-alls, Herald self-interested right wing contributors, John Key (because he was maybe bored and wanted to go to Hawaii or somewhere), the violent rhetoric from the protesters, has been disgraceful. Just where have been the balancing commentaries?

    Throughout all this, the PM has maintained her dignity, kept calm and carried on. She is to be greatly admired.

  7. Reality 7

    It seems the more popular the PM became, her opponents in turn became more rabid about tearing her down, anyway, anyhow. From 'girl in a skirt' ageing males who cannot cope with a youngish woman PM, through the whole spectrum. Tall poppy jealousy.

  8. Patricia Bremner 8

    I watch facebook and the pile on by the same groups. They come on with lies accusations and mad bloody theories. Tin hats abound. Though I still see 66% to 75% are thumbs up or hearts. A quarter to a third show anger or puzzlement. That is an interesting measurement, as in the last week or so the antis appear to have stopped bothering.

    Some time back I commented that the efforts were aimed at bringing her down or into disrepute, as National and Act see her as the biggest asset for Labour. They are right.

    We are singularly fortunate to have had such Leadership in such times, but when people don't want to listen any more, reasoning with the tired and cranky gets difficult.

    The dishonesty of the Opposition promising blue skies and jam is laughable and sad. The supporters of the 1% have signaled they are assisting Nationals extra Act seats. It is clear they do not want to share power with the commons.

    Jacinda has not changed, people have become impatient critical and tired of restrictions, but not so tired they have forgotten the lessons. In fact there are cries of "Where the bloody hell are you?" to the NZ public by businesses who have cried "Open up" but Kiwis by and large are going "Don't think so Not yet". Who are they listening to?

    Jacinda that's who.

    • Belladonna 8.1

      "The dishonesty of the Opposition promising blue skies and jam is laughable and sad. "

      The character of Oppositions everywhere – I still recall the ridiculously impossible promise of 100,000 Kiwibuild houses. When every builder I know was saying we don't have the manpower or resources to build them – and the Councils won't free up the land, to build them on. Still waiting for the great Carrington development….

      • Patricia Bremner 8.1.1

        Again Belladonna you fail to mention, that although that programme KB was flawed, this Government has increased building to greater than in 1975, and many homes are currently under construction in very difficult times. I suppose you could say they should have seen the Pandemic coming if you wanted to keep dissing!!

        • Belladonna

          I'm talking about over-promise and under-deliver. A besetting sin of all Opposition Parties.

          When you promise jam, the electorate doesn't consider the fact that you've given them margarine – they only see the absence of jam.

          Blaming Covid for the Kiwibuild failure is deeply disingenuous. It had already been junked as a policy in the middle of 2019 – long before Covid.

          Kiwibuild, with a target of 100,000 houses was a stupidly unachievable headline-grabbing policy, which quickly became an albatross around the neck of the Labour-NZF coalition.

          Personally, I think it was a policy that was 'flown' at the time Labour thought they had no chance of actually getting into power in 2017 – and was to be a convenient stick to beat the National Government with for the next 3 years. Unfortunately (for Twyford, that is), Peters put Ardern into government, and Twyford had to attempt to deliver on the undeliverable.

          A policy to double or triple current state building levels, to legislate to remove the barriers to development, and – even possibly, to look at reinstituting State advances for first home buyers; all would have been achievable, and believable, and they would have got the kudos for them. Instead, all the electorate thinks of when Labour talks about housing is the Kiwibuild 'failure'.

          • Patricia Bremner

            I said KB was flawed.

            The current building programme has continued and done well in spite of covid.

            Please do not put words in my mouth.

            • Belladonna

              Please explain where I have put words in your mouth.
              The only quote that I've made is literally word for word from your post.

      • KJT 8.1.2

        Funny I don't recall Labour promising anything like 100 000 kiwibuild houses.

        Do you have a reference?

        • arkie

          Here they are reneging on it, September 2019:

          The Government has dropped its target to construct 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, admitting the goal was "overly ambitious" and meant houses were being built in places with little demand.

          Instead, the Government plans to build as many homes as it can, as fast as it's able to – measuring its success on a housing dashboard.

          It has also launched a new "progressive homeownership" initiative, where $400 million of reallocated KiwiBuild funding could support up to 4000 households into homeownership, through a rent-to-buy or shared equity scheme.

          Housing Minister Megan Woods this afternoon released the much-anticipated KiwiBuild reset, after seven months of developing the policy.

          • KJT

            Never liked Kiwibuild. Why didn't they just spend the money on State rentals?

            In fact 100 000 over ten years was doable, but a poor use of building resources.

            They were right to drop it when it didn't work as expected.
            “When policies aren’t working we are honest about that and fix them.”

            Contrast that with past Governments continuing with stuffups long past the time it becomes apparent. E.G. Bradford’s power “reforms”.

            • arkie

              Heartily agree, the adherence to building for ‘the market’ led to many issues and should have been rejected from the outset. It just seems like another example of a centrist party attempting to appeal to both sides of the political spectrum rather than being practical; building state rentals and promoting the ‘progressive houseownership’ programme seems a much more rational and effective spend. Those on the right won’t ever be satisfied with National Lite, why bother with them? Deliver for the missing million and demand their vote.

        • Belladonna

          Are you trolling? Or just completely oblivious to what's happened with housing in NZ over the last 5 years?

          Can't be bothered trawling through the Labour party manifesto (have to use the Wayback sites – since it's long been sanitized off the Labour Party websites)

          But is a Phil Twyford speech from the Beehive good enough for you?

          Through Kiwibuild we are going to build 100,000 affordable homes for first home buyers, half of them in Auckland.

          And a couple of critiques – both referencing the 100K total:

          One comparing the Nat & Lab housing policies pre 2017 election

          And, another a year in, critiquing performance

  9. Just Saying 9

    This isn't about teams. We have teams but that doesn't make every issue a team issue. You can carry on till the cows come home with the pom-poms and the razzle dazzle at 'half time' but that doesn't turn this into a team sport. Neither does another team picking up the ball and trying to score.

    Rewriting, reframing, refusing to listen. Very clever. That must be worth a point surely?

    Belladonna above mentions the Great Carrington Declaration. That outlines the need to care for the vulnerable and how to work towards it. Maybe reading that would be a start, at least to protect and nurture those who need protection. Now. It does nothing to repair the damage but if the 'team' insists on pretending this is a game, doing so would be strategic at this point. You know, defend your flank and all that. It would be good that in doing so a positive side-effect might be some protection for the vulnerable. If doing the right thing is only ever going to be a side-effect of a strategy to win a game.

    • joe90 9.1

      Belladonna above mentions the Great Carrington Declaration.


      • Just Saying 9.1.1

        Great Barrington Declaration (

        My mistake. This is what I thought she was talking about.

        Those waving pom-poms and/or following the sychophantic, (and to be fair, fear-adrenalised mainstream media) wouldn't know just how much was censored from the news. Like the greatest numbers rioting especially in Eastern Europe in recorded history (naziism and other repressive regimes a bit closer to the forefront of e-european minds I suspect), and this long before the truckers in Canda could only be misrepresented not ignored completely.

        The censorship also included a myriad of scientists and medicos trying to say that highly repressive measures would cause more illness and death, especially among the poorest than covid. NZ is a distant Island so we could hold back covid for a while, but because of geography.

        Oh and the censored scientists – they were right.

        2 Years On – In conversation, Professor Jay Bhattacharya and Professor John Ioannidis – YouTube

        The working class, on the frontline of that harm, took action with the mandate protest. There were others there, some just trouble makers, but the working-class predominated – trying to stop the pointless damage that the working class was experiencing first hand. And suddenly the impossibility of eradication was acknowledged by the government and media.

        We won't hold out breaths waiting for the rest of you to thank us. We're too busy trying to survive.

        • joe90

          Sweden highlighted the bankruptcy of the GBD mob's strategy.

          And the working folk in my life didn't have the inclination, time or the wherewithal to participate in the Wellington atroturfing effort. Pandemic or not, they were working.


          Sweden was well equipped to prevent the pandemic of COVID-19 from becoming serious. Over 280 years of collaboration between political bodies, authorities, and the scientific community had yielded many successes in preventive medicine. Sweden’s population is literate and has a high level of trust in authorities and those in power. During 2020, however, Sweden had ten times higher COVID-19 death rates compared with neighbouring Norway. In this report, we try to understand why, using a narrative approach to evaluate the Swedish COVID-19 policy and the role of scientific evidence and integrity. We argue that that scientific methodology was not followed by the major figures in the acting authorities—or the responsible politicians—with alternative narratives being considered as valid, resulting in arbitrary policy decisions. In 2014, the Public Health Agency merged with the Institute for Infectious Disease Control; the first decision by its new head (Johan Carlson) was to dismiss and move the authority’s six professors to Karolinska Institute. With this setup, the authority lacked expertise and could disregard scientific facts. The Swedish pandemic strategy seemed targeted towards “natural” herd-immunity and avoiding a societal shutdown. The Public Health Agency labelled advice from national scientists and international authorities as extreme positions, resulting in media and political bodies to accept their own policy instead. The Swedish people were kept in ignorance of basic facts such as the airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission, that asymptomatic individuals can be contagious and that face masks protect both the carrier and others. Mandatory legislation was seldom used; recommendations relying upon personal responsibility and without any sanctions were the norm. Many elderly people were administered morphine instead of oxygen despite available supplies, effectively ending their lives. If Sweden wants to do better in future pandemics, the scientific method must be re-established, not least within the Public Health Agency. It would likely make a large difference if a separate, independent Institute for Infectious Disease Control is recreated. We recommend Sweden begins a self-critical process about its political culture and the lack of accountability of decision-makers to avoid future failures, as occurred with the COVID-19 pandemic.


          The Swedish strategy has also been at the base of the controversial Great Barrington Declaration (published October 4, 2020) aiming for natural herd-immunity by letting the infections spread in a “controlled way” in society (Kulldorff et al., 2020), with several of the initiators/defenders having strong ties to Sweden (2021e). This strategy is considered internationally as unscientific, unethical, and unfeasible (Aschwanden, 2020; Aschwanden, 2021; Khalife and VanGennep, 2021; Sridhar and Gurdasani, 2021). Consequently, we argue that the Swedish strategy and several of its supporters have undermined efforts to suppress the infection in other countries (Kulldorff et al., 2020; Mccurry, 2020; Giesecke, 2020; Vogel, 2020, Bjorklund and Ewing, 2020).

          • Just Saying

            Sweden failed to protect the vulnerable. This report details woeful neglect of such protection. The average age of death from covid in Britain is 82.

            Neither I nor the declaration suggested doing nothing. Sweden was not an example of implementation of the declaration at all. FFS, the declaration itself was not the only example of scientific dissent, and its authors like most who spoke out about paid a heavy price and not for personal gain, but because of a moral obligation in relation to protecting lives and health.

            If you watch the discussion I posted you will see that it is a good faith, discussion of the breadth of the dilemma everyone was working within. It is no hatchet job.

            The mandate protests came two years into the pandemic, were an act of desperation. I believe the original lockdown and measures were completely warranted. But continuing with futile, and harmful eradication measures, after the impossibility of eradication was well-known was flat-out scapegoating.

            A covid response was never either/or. It beggars belief that anyone could imagine a binary choice. 'What's for tea' must be real fun at your house. Which of only two possible options will it be tonight?

        • Incognito

          You seem confused. Here, read up on censorship in NZ:

          NZ never followed an eradication approach. Arguable, the so-called ‘elimination strategy’ was abandoned in early October, i.e. long before the mandate protest in Parliament grounds.

          Please educate yourself before you spout more nonsense here. And learn to read people’s comments properly before you respond.

          • Just Saying

            I apologise and withdraw that elimination mistake. I was unaware that the government had changed its stance. However I stand by my comment in regard to the mandates continuing in the face of elimination being impossible.

            • Incognito

              Mandates are as much a mitigation as they are an elimination tool. The jury (or rather the judge) is still out on whether they are a sufficiently effective tool to continue in this era of Omicron, in at least some sectors. The mandates were never absolute and total measures for the whole adult population and were never meant to be permanent and always subject to need/requirement. BTW, no “myriad[s] of scientists and medicos” were censored in NZ.

              • Just Saying

                ''sufficiently effective mitigation tool''

                And the costs of that possible mitigation, and who was paying it?

                Did you see, even on the Standard, how extreme the extra-mitigation effects were?

                In regard to a completely different matter, I've been thinking lately about how we repair relationships in a whole lot of different ways when they are frayed and people are injured. And about how it almost defines whether care or respect underlies the relationship.

                I'm not talking about me, here on TS re repair, I've been trying and failing to express the harm and need for repair and the ongoing harm of its absence. I didn't intend to get into the arguments but I did. There has been no political attempt at any kind of resolution and some rifts fester. We all shrug stuff off all the time too. In all relationships we need to signal when we can't shrug any more, and again, I'm not talking about me here at TS.

                • Incognito

                  I cannot easily tell what your concerns are with the mandates and whether these are related to past and/or present measures; the mandates are public health measures, first and foremost, but I cannot tell whether you accept or dispute this. The stuff in your comment about damage & repair is like a maze built on quicksand; where to start and there’s no end in sight. I’m not going to second-guess you, as the onus is on you to explain clearly what you mean.

              • Anne

                BTW, no “myriad[s] of scientists and medicos” were censored in NZ.

                Yes I was going to comment on that too. Talk about misinformation on JS’s part.

                • Just Saying

                  Are you challenging the honesty and integrity of Professors Bhattacharaya and Ionnaidis both of Standford University and linked to above, Anne?

                  Suppressed means suppressed. It's hard to know if scientists are suppressed unless they choose to blow the whistle. These and others have talked about the heavy price they and their families paid for doing so. How many do you think you need?

                  As for NZ, I don’t know if any scientists suppressed dissenting opinions. I expect we might come to find out. But I didn’t say NZ scientists.

                  • Anne

                    Are you a scientist? Are you – or have you been – on close collegial terms with scientists of any hue?

                    Any scientists who have been so-called "suppressed" is because they are either barking mad (and there is a tiny percentage who are) or they are basing their views on extremist ideological or religious grounds. Their conclusions are coloured by their extremism and therefore they are not considered to be appropriate sources of information.

                    • Just Saying

                      Anne, you could listen to the conversation between these two scientists. They are reflecting on the unique challenge the pandemic posed, as well as their experience of feeling the need to challenge an extremely emotionally charged consensus. I could post more scientists, from other esteemed institutions, but this conversation is unique in its gentle, wise and broad-scope reflection.

                      But if to you expressing a contrary perspective within uncertainty, most especially if that perspective comes from following what the data itself is saying, according to their expertise in seeking neutrality in asking questions and seeking evidence: If this makes them ''barking mad… extremist ideological or religious beliefs'' – you've replied to yourself I think.

                  • KJT

                    Why can’t some scientists just admit they were wrong about Covid? | Devi Sridhar | The Guardian

                    "eep trying to show how they were still right in early 2020, digging themselves an even deeper hole. A case in point is Stanford professor John Ioannidis, who, in March 2020, argued that governments were overreacting to the threat of Covid. He mocked those who worried that the “68 deaths from Covid-19 in the US as of 16 March will increase exponentially to 680, 6,800, 68,000, 680,000”. He estimated that the US might suffer only 10,000 deaths. He also was cynical that vaccines or treatments could be developed in any timeframe that would affect the trajectory of the pandemic."

                    • Anne

                      From KJT's link:

                      “I’m sitting at home after my office closed today and still wondering why my country’s economy is being destroyed by panic.”

                      “…and the death rate will turn out to be about what the flu is. It seems most likely.”

                      Professor John Ioannidis.

                      Oh dearie me. How wrong he was!!!

                      To quote Just Saying:

                      Why can't these scientists admit when they get it wrong.

                      Couldn't agree more and here's why JS's Professor Ioannidis won't. Because, as I suspected @1023am above, he's a right wing Covid denier arguing the case against purely on ideological grounds – and using pseudo science to back up his case.

                    • Just Saying

                      KJT and Anne, below.

                      You haven't bothered listening to my link, KJT, you sought a negative without doing so, on autopilot.

                      Anne your quote is from KJT, not my post. Your replies without evidence would cause a fit the from the mods if I did it. Let alone the vitriolic slander of the academics without even listening, again, autopilot. These strike me as good people who are trying to bridge this divide which alternative views and beliefs don't have to be.

                      Which makes discussion impossible. I'm not an enemy.

                      I'll admit, I've been far from perfect in these non-discussions, I've felt thwarted and angry but I have wanted to try.

                    • KJT

                      Just Saying.
                      What do you expect when you hunt in Google all around the world for the one academic that supported your position.

                      One that reality, the numbers, has proven wrong. But still won't admit it.

                    • Just Saying


                      I didn't need to hunt. I'd already listened to it. This was by no means the most hard-hitting and effective counter-punch I could have found if winning the round was my aim in this particular instance. I admit I have spoken belligerently at other points but because it is so hard to feel labelled and besieged by my own side just for trying to express an alternative point of view. In fact, in this case just disagreeing has led to ridiculous accusations, about who and what anyone with a dissenting perspective is.

                      This clip is a genuine attempt to understand the context of an extremely emotive and damaging situation for science and the wider community, in which people are talking past each other. Yes it comes from a couple of scientists on one side of a fence, but its about how an artificial barrier came about and continued to grow and harden.

                      These and other such scientists have the insulation of establishment status and they are not punching, but grappling to understand here. Because they were not used to finding themselves accused, misrepresented, and tainted, and experiencing death threats. They come from the world of documentation and evidence, and yes status – being accorded a voice. And suddenly what they saw the science telling them meant attempts silence them turning into mobbing. In mobbing, even the most sane, intelligent, well-intentioned people lose it.

                      Covid intensified pre existing divisions in communities, but it also created new ones, a new climate of censorship of dissent that I feel frightened by because I don't see it going away.

      • Patricia Bremner 9.1.2

        This is a ten year plan.

        • Belladonna

          If that means Carrington. We're now 5 years in (announced in 2018) – and no sign of any progress that I can see.

          • Louis

            The Carrington residential development is a 10 – 15 year plan.


            • Belladonna

              So, 5 years in to a 10-15 year development, I'd expect to see some actual development happening on the ground. Zip, last time I drove past.

              • Incognito

                The date of that link is over a year old. However, it does state right at the top of the page that they are negotiating to acquire a further 9.3 hectares of land for development. I’d imagine that will considerably change the plans for and scope of the overall development. Perhaps you could adjust your expectations to fit the overall picture here?

                • Belladonna

                  Tried really hard to find some more recent information. But there doesn't appear to be anything out there.
                  I don't mind adjusting my expectations to incorporate a larger site/complex.
                  However, the way that KO have gone about other building sites in Auckland, has been a 'drip-feed' approach. They develop the site in a piecemeal fashion – progressing in a logical way across the whole area – so there are actual houses becoming available for use on a regular basis (cf the Northcote development right down the road from me)
                  The fact that this is not happening for the Carrington Development – makes me seriously question whether it's actually going to eventuate, or it's just a paper planning exercise.

                  • Incognito

                    Agree with that, mostly. That link was outdated. A lot can change in 10-15 years, which is roughly 5 general elections. So, who knows what will happen? But as it stands, there will be a lot of houses on that large site, at some stage. Maybe there will be something about it in the upcoming Budget.

              • Louis

                Hasn't been 5 years yet and there is a lot of foundation work that needs to be done first for a massive build of this size. Besides, there is a global pandemic going on, construction materials shortages and this govt are also addressing the shortage of apprenticeships as well, that the previous National govt had slashed.

  10. Reality 10

    Yes, Patricia, quite ironic that Kiwis are being cautious about where they go and what they do, despite being told every other day by business they should be out spending their money in cafes and shops. In uncertain times the squirrel instinct is wise.

    Could be time for tourism and hospitality to adjust their expectations just like the rest of society is doing in various ways. The young are naturally keen to socialise but older people, who are more likely to get very unwell, are being careful.

  11. Poission 11

    Sometimes policy is timing dependent,and interdependent on other factors.The biofuel mandate is one of those.It is poor decision making at a time of critical food shortages globally,and is already a reason for higher food costs,food shortages and instability in food markets.

    The Prime Minister says the Government's planned biofuels mandate will help create long-term stability in the fuel market, something she says recent price volatility has shown a need for.

    Fuel stability at the cost of political instability due to food shortages from the Ukraine war,and drought in the Horn of Africa,and across the grain belts of the US ,is not a strong argument.

    There was another driver of food prices, which is fundamental—it has to do with supply and demand. Ethanol policy: This was taking huge amounts of corn, 50 percent of US corn, and turning it into ethanol for use in cars. And 50 percent of US corn is a huge fraction of the global food supply, and resulted in progressively increasing food prices as the amount of ethanol produced increased. So we had these two different reasons for food price increases. One was speculative, non-fundamental and the other one was the fundamental fact that grain was being taken out of the food supply system and into a different context.

    Maize exports from the Ukraine are around a 1/4 of the US ethanol production.

    • pat 11.1

      Grain price inflation has yet to hit (at least in NZ)….next seasons contracts will be telling

      • Poission 11.1.1

        The timing for grain price in NZ is during our harvest peaks,so local stocks will be ok in SI ,white milling grain in NI is imported from AU ( due to cheaper freight costs)

        There is enough available SI arable land to supply the NI so a potential is readily available.

        For ethanol production this would have to be brought in from overseas due to an absence of feedstock.The developing feed lines from woodwaste etc,are for substitution for heavy fuels such as locomotives,some shipping off road heavy transports etc.

        The above would not compete with food security (here or offshore) the closure of Marsden Point constrains the economic use of the Northland area,and will prove costly nationally in the long term,and very costly to Whangarei Ratepayers in the short term.

        • pat

          Yes but the point is the supply contracts for the next 8 or so months have been set….we shouldnt see much grain inflation (off contract aside) until the new season.

          Not that some wont attempt to use international headlines as an opportunity.

  12. If Labour losing an election is the worst thing that happens in 2023 I will probably be relieved. But I don't see how National is gonna save us from wars, pandemics, climate disasters, and our trading partners acting like munters.

    Jacinda has been a good leader but the people of Aotearoa are traumatised from 2 years of lockdown and Covid fears. How many thousands of hopes and dreams wrecked, and family events cancelled, because of draconian lockdown laws? In retrospect, it was overkill. We obediently tried to do the right thing (locking down) even though it was detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing.

    It would be nice if Labour admitted their failures. What was most appealing about Jacinda was when she was the underdog showing humanity and warmth. I am not sure if a carefully stage managed PR campaign will work, if it is fundamentally dishonest.

    • KJT 12.1

      "In retrospect" the results we have had shows that the decisions made were fundamentally correct.

      And even if they weren't, they all made sense at the time with the evidence available.

      Which is what I expect of competent people.

      Anyone who thinks that they could have done better, don't have a fucking clue about emergency management and leadership.

    • Blazer 12.2


      I am not sure if a carefully stage managed PR campaign will work, if it is fundamentally dishonest.'

      I'm sure the Crosby/Textors of the world….would…disagree…strongly!laugh

    • Craig H 12.3

      Doing nothing would have also destroyed families and gatherings but through deaths instead of restrictions, and through people not attending out of fear anyway.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 12.4

      In retrospect, it was overkill.

      With the benefit of hindsight, maybe – imho one welcome outcome of "overkill" has been 'underkill'.

      New Zealand's Covid-19 response still one of the best worldwide – Michael Baker [28 Feb. 2022]
      Baker said he is still optimistic about the future, highlighting that life expectancy in New Zealand has risen by about eight months over the course of the pandemic…

      Last 7 months (from mid-Aug. arrival of Delta) have been particularly tough, but objectively our govt's evolving response strategies (elimination, suppression and mitigation) had a lower stringency index (averaged over 25 months) than many other countries.

      COVID-19 stringency index (averaged from 21/2/20 – 21/3/22):
      Canada 66.2; Australia 59.7; U.K. 56.9; NZ 43.5 [0 – 100; 100 = strictest]

      Maybe it's less the average level of sacrifice that has been asked of Kiwis, and more the extended periods of near-normal life, interspersed with comparatively brief ‘spikes’ of very strict constraints, that have been so difficult. If so, then what might that reveal about the comparative mental and physical resilience of Kiwis?

      I want this pandemic to be over, but it's not over 'til it's over – still, the current global trends are promising.

      • lprent 12.4.1

        I want this pandemic to be over, but it’s not over ’til it’s over – still, the current global trends are promising.

        Insofar as we haven’t seen what the next wave from a new variant looks like yet. We’re still using vaccines that target a variant that appeared over 2 years ago, and is now 4 widely dispersed variants in the past. Wide parts of the world are only partially vaccinated and/or only have had a variant infecting only parts of their respective populations. Which means that it is ideal variant creating conditions.

        The preventatives and immediate infection medicines are still limited in supply or relatively ineffectual. We still don’t know enough about any downstream effects apart from tat they’re not likely to be particularly nice for populations. The covid-19 disease family is now clearly going to be endemic.

        But on the whole you’re correct. We are in far better condition than we were at the start of 2020. As much as anything else because societies have been shifting behaviours to reduce the potential for damage.

    • Hongi Ika 12.5

      I honestly can't see National/ACT getting anywhere near Labour/Greens IMHO

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    7 days ago
  • Government’s work for survivors of abuse in care continues
    The Government continues progress on the survivor-led independent redress system for historic abuse in care, with the announcement of the design and advisory group members today. “The main recommendation of the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s Abuse in Care interim redress report was for a survivor-led independent redress system, and the ...
    7 days ago
  • Humanitarian support for the Horn of Africa
    Aotearoa New Zealand is providing NZ$7.75 million to respond to urgent humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today. The Horn of Africa is experiencing its most severe drought in decades, with five consecutive failed rainy seasons. At least 43.3 million people require lifesaving and ...
    1 week ago
  • Two brand new mental health facilities opened in Christchurch
    Health Minister Ayesha Verrall has opened two new state-of-the-art mental health facilities at the Christchurch Hillmorton Hospital campus, as the Government ramps up its efforts to build a modern fit for purpose mental health system. The buildings, costing $81.8 million, are one of 16 capital projects the Government has funded ...
    1 week ago
  • Government invests more than $24 million in regional projects
    The Government is continuing to invest in our regional economies by announcing another $24 million worth of investment into ten diverse projects, Regional Development Minister Kiri Allan says. “Our regions are the backbone of our economy and today’s announcement continues to build on the Government’s investment to boost regional economic ...
    1 week ago
  • Budget 23 supports the growth of Māori tourism
    An $8 million boost to New Zealand Māori Tourism will help operators insulate themselves for the future. Spread over the next four years, the investment acknowledges the on-going challenges faced by the industry and the significant contribution Māori make to tourism in Aotearoa. It builds on the $15 million invested ...
    1 week ago
  • First Bushmasters ready to roll
    Defence Minister Andrew Little has marked the arrival of the first 18 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles for the New Zealand Army, alongside personnel at Trentham Military Camp today. “The arrival of the Bushmaster fleet represents a significant uplift in capability and protection for defence force personnel, and a milestone in ...
    1 week ago

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