I found this analysis from John Armstrong especially insightful in the politics of being non-political. He says:
The politicians are already playing politics, however, though not too flagrantly. Saying you are not going to play politics – as Goff effectively did – is itself a political statement. As was John Key’s decision to cancel his trip to Britain and France…Labour’s strategy for now is to be seen to be party to solutions to Christchurch’s woes by offering to work constructively alongside National. But National does not need Labour’s help. And it more than likely does not want it….Goff can validly argue it is not the Opposition’s role to adopt a stance of unquestioning silence if there are mistakes, foul-ups or shortcomings in the Government’s attempts to fix Christchurch.
Overshadowing all that is the growing realisation that dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake is a potential election “game-changer”. Getting Christchurch back on its feet is looming as a test of the Government’s competence second only to management of the economy. Get it right in a reasonable time and National will get substantial kudos for doing so just months before the next election.
Handling it badly will be a black mark for the Key Administration which could help Labour get back in the race for the Government benches.
National’s task is made more difficult by Christchurch being one of Labour’s few remaining strongholds. There will therefore be high expectations on the populace’s part of Government intervention and assistance with which National Party ideology does not sit comfortably. The pressure to open the wallet also risks undermining National’s determination to keep tight control on spending.
All in all, the political stakes have suddenly become very high as the enormity of the earthquake’s impact becomes more and more apparent.