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Chris Trotter asks whether Jacinda Ardern’s government is a critical mass of talent, or a critical mess of failure

Chris Trotter asks whether Jacinda Ardern’s government is a critical mass of talent, or a critical mess of failure
Winston Peters, Jacinda Ardern & James Shaw, by Jacky Carpenter.

By Chris Trotter*

Sir Christopher Clark is one of Cambridge University’s most arresting historians. The Sleepwalkers, his book about the outbreak of the First World War, belongs among those rare histories which set out to raise more questions than they can answer. I mention this Australian-born professor because I heard him say something recently, on a topic quite unrelated to the First World War, that provided me with the beginnings of an answer to a question more and more people are asking: “Why can’t this government get anything done?”

In his History Channel series, The Story of Europe, Professor Clark discusses the Renaissance. What made it possible? He mentions the rediscovery of ancient texts, but considers that to be an insufficient explanation: “… another precondition was necessary, one which has always featured prominently in great cultural transformations; a critical mass of talented people among whom ideas … could fall on fertile ground and germinate.”

It is Professor Clark’s grasp of individual agency: on the importance of the right personalities being present at the right place, at the right (or wrong!) moment in time, that distinguishes his view of history from those historiographers who eschew the “great man theory” in favour of the relentless accumulation of economic and social indices. Though Clark is very far from being a Marxist historian, I suspect he would, nevertheless, concur with Marx the journalist, who, in 1852, wrote the following, oft-quoted, words:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

In the dark watches of the night, I suspect it is not the deeds of the dead generations that weigh upon the brain of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, but those of her colleagues in government who are still very much alive.

With every passing week, the combined effect of the Ardern Ministry’s blunders, boasts and botch-ups makes the job of Simon Bridges and the National Opposition easier and easier. The legendary King Midas turned everything he touched into gold. The most common by-product of the present Coalition Government’s hands-on exertions is considerably more malodorous and much less valuable.

The disaster that is KiwiBuild. The Capital Gains Tax debacle. Ms Julie Anne Genter’s jihad against the private automobile. The persistence of child poverty. Rapidly fraying relationship with the tangata whenua – even with (or, perhaps, because of) the largest Maori Caucus in Labour’s history. Mr Shane Jones’ travelling circus of pomposity, pine trees, and provincial pork. The list goes on, each entry more demoralising than the last.

Small wonder that the Deputy-Prime Minister has taken to his bed, and angrily turned away the Deputy-Opposition Leader’s offer of flowers.

Ms Ardern presides over a collection of parties, and individuals, that could not be further from Professor Clark’s “critical mass of talented people”. Crucially absent from the Coalition Cabinet is a fervent conviction that the realisation of their shared ideals is not only possible, but imminent. The mindset which allowed the men and women of the Renaissance to transform their world simply isn’t there.

What makes this failure of the Coalition to coalesce even more devastating, politically, is that, at the time of its creation, ‘transformation’ – driven by a unifying commitment to progressive change – is precisely what Ardern and her colleagues were promising New Zealanders.

By under-promising and over-delivering, Helen Clark was able to lead New Zealand for nine years. By wildly over-promising and spectacularly under-delivering, Jacinda Ardern will be lucky to win a second term.

Paradoxically, for a government which entered office amidst a flurry of comments highly critical of neo-liberal capitalism, the model for an astonishingly successful transformational government is right there in the Labour Party’s recent history.

Under the Fourth Labour Government (1984-1990) New Zealand underwent rapid, comprehensive and ruthless change. When, six years after it won the Treasury Benches, the government was defeated, New Zealand was nothing like the country David Lange had inherited from Rob Muldoon. The latter politician had once told a television journalist that he would consider his prime-ministership a success if he left the country no worse than he found it. David Lange, by contrast, had always insisted on offering the voters a very different country. He did not fail them.

What made this possible was the coming together of precisely the “critical mass of talented people” that Professor Clark describes. In Labour’s parliamentary caucus there was not only Lange, but Geoffrey Palmer, Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble, David Caygill, Mike Moore, Trevor de Clene, and Stan Rodger.

Outside Parliament, at the Treasury and the Reserve Bank, and in parts of the business community and the news media, was another critical mass of individuals determined to break New Zealand free from Muldoon’s sclerotic regime. The playwright, Tom Scott, pictured New Zealand as a little ship setting forth into unknown and dangerous seas, guided only by her people’s faith in themselves.

Many are the New Zealanders who condemn the economic and social programme known as “Rogernomics”, but only its most fanatical critics would deny the “Rogernomes” the praises due to a group of people who promised to transform their country – and transformed it.

There are, of course, supplementary explanations for the success of “Rogernomics”. The most obvious being the FPP electoral system, which afforded a simple majority in the governing party’s caucus what amounted to dictatorial powers over the entire nation for three years.

‘Muldoonism’ itself, similarly, goes a long way towards explaining the success of ‘Rogernomics’. Under Lange’s immediate predecessor, the New Zealand economy had come perilously close to collapse. An alternative strategy was required, and thanks to Treasury’s little beige book, Economic Management, it was Roger Douglas who got there firstest with the mostest. That Douglas’s opponents had no little book of their own to offer the country, lent credence to the Rogernomes’ claim that “there is no alternative”. Moreover, from the ramshackle and disaster-prone quality of the Ardern Ministry, it is clear that the (alleged) opponents of the neoliberal order within the present government have yet to produce one.

The sort of credible, costed and internally consistent programme which, thirty years ago, united people across generations, races, genders and political parties, and steeled them to drive through what they believed to be absolutely necessary reforms against any and all resistance, is most certainly not in evidence in the policies of the current Cabinet. An endless succession of working party reports is no substitute for a little beige book.

What New Zealanders have at present isn’t so much a critical mass as a critical mess. Tragically, Ms Ardern’s Government, born out of people’s hunger for an alternative to neoliberalism’s demonstrable failure to deliver prosperity and social justice for all, is turning out to be a great deal smaller than the sum of its parts.

*Chris Trotter has been writing and commenting professionally about New Zealand politics for more than 30 years. His work may be found at He writes a fortnightly column for

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The next election is shaping up to be like the last election, people will be voting just to get rid of the current lot, not because the alternative is looking great it's just they cannot stand the sight of who they have had to put up with for the last 3 years any longer.


The NZ parliament of today is devoid of the calibre of MPs that represented us in Muldoon & Lange’s time. And, to boot, we have another thirty or so of the blighters. MMP has been a failure. It is now obvious that NZ has not got either the electorate size or maturity to make it effective. I voted for it, I admit. That was because it was thought it would put a stop to all the shenanigans that were going on in parliament at the time. Instead it has made it worse. The introduction of the list MPs has allowed in considerable identities who were/are not fit to be in office. When we had just 90 or so MPs all representing an electorate at least they were directly accountable to those people. Yes this government is blundering about alright but the previous National lot were little better, conceited,complacent and careless too, the electorate turned on them justifiably. Our parliament is over complicated and unwieldy, what else can we expect.

Excellent comment


Try having a look around the world and see how FPP and similar are working. USA? UK?
By the next election we will have had 21 consecutive years of fairly central, economically conservative, debt averse government and almost 21 years of good economic growth (at a minimum - I can't really remember much before Clark). We easily survived a world recession because of our low government debt and we are in a very good place for the next one (check out the government debts of other countries; they must be crapping their undies thinking about the next global recession)
Yes I am sure there will be some aspects of government that not everyone agrees with (this is always going to be the case even with FPP). But MMP gets people voting for the greater good, while FPP gets people voting for their own personal electorate. You can see FPP style failings in the Auckland council ("we need more houses - but not in my electorate").


MMP is beloved by fringe ideologies that are delivered power vastly beyond their votes, but it delivers less stable, less effective tail-wagging-the-dog government held hostage to blots on the landscape like Winston Peters who has been rejected by four different electorates. FPP delivers stable centrist governments that battle in the middle-ground and can be held to their campaign promises. MMP makes such promises ignorable once they have served their purpose of gaining power. If you haven't got what it takes to win an electorate you shouldn't be in parliament.

FFP delivered stable centrist governments up to the 70 and 80s but there's no reason reason to believe it still works now. I am not happy with our parliament but I would take it over the current House of Commons or the US's Representatives. I would also take ours over Australia's but that may be more personal choice.

It's not MMP. We still get half our MPs from electorates and if they were all competent we could just let the other half sit on the back benches.
The main problem is politics is no longer attracting competent people and letting them get to the top. For example, the UK with FPP have ended up with Teresa May and Borris as PMs because there was no one clearly better and they have an order of magnitude more electorate MPs to chose from.
If I had pick a cause of this it would be decline of our news media into progressivism, as traditional revenue sources also decline.

I kind of agree about the media but I think there’s a large element of they “sell” what we “want.” As government has got larger and more intrusive over the years, we have less need to do things for ourselves and accordingly are less interested in being informed with actually important issues rather than the entertainment trash we get from our predominant news sources these days. There was the “Great Depression” but it’s as if we’ve now gone through the “Great Dumbing.”

Yes it is ultimately the electorates responsibility for our leaders but doing that without delegating some responsibility to various hopefully independent institutions is hard work. We place a certain amount of trust in our news media to inform and us of the information required to make a decision on who we chose, trying to keep politically independent with their opinions. They have been doing a really terrible job of this recently and it will take some time for us to come up with alternatives.

MMP as we have it implemented is not great, how many times have them in the beehive ignored the electorate, and the recommendation of the expert panels to lower the MMP threshold to 2%?

I'd prefer that the party vote moved to STV, so you can safely vote for a new minor party, without risk of your vote being 'wasted'.

More minor parties would eliminate any single minor party (winston) being able to dictate to the majority.


I wouldn't be so sure. I'm not overly impressed with some of what they are doing, but they have a growing base via the renting,asset deprived and environmentally concerned classes. Most of the anti noise is coming via msm (hosking and co) may be misreading this noise.

Agreed. I don't know anyone who's actually impressed with Labour's performance so far, but why would anyone other than dairy farmers and Auckland RE agents vote National?


Could end up increasing the Green vote by default, which would not help National's case.

But yes, with Bridges in charge and only really looking to help certain segments of society people I can't see massive numbers flocking back to the party that promised to address the housing crisis then denied any such crisis existed, whilst insisting foreign money wasn't an issue and dragging its feet on anti-money-laundering legislation.

National is not a useful alternative for younger Kiwis.

..if they acknowledged housing, immigration and enviro concerns, I might be back. No sign of that though.

Their enviro priority (or rather lack of it) reflected in their conservation spokeswoman Dowie. I can't understand why they are so out of touch with the issue of the times. And not I'm not just talking whitebait.


One thing Simon is saying that is sensible is extending the residency requirement for receiving the pension to 20 years from 10. This is something that Labour should take from them and run with if they know what's good for them.

Rubbish. National consistently delivers better growth to NZ than labour. And growth delivers it's benefits to all NZers, young included, through improved opportunities, higher income, better standards, and more tax dollars to distribute to fewer beneficiaries. National reduced poverty, improved health care, and turned economy from deep deficit and recession to surplus and high growth. Every labour government of last 60 years has left NZ in recession. Poverty, beneficiary numbers are rising under Ardern and with falling growth and terrible coalition performance NZ voters are flocking towards National. See last two polls. Greens and Labour scrapping over hard left votes is an irrelevancy unless Greens fall below 5%.

@ Foyle..some using facts may disagree. In fact all of our governments (Blue and Red) are WOEFUL at delivering any true productivity increase. GDP per capita is one of the worst in the OECD for decades and getting worse.

I don't disagree. Though I am in favour of growing NZ population as a means to lifting our economic prosperity/viability (with larger internal markets and larger support bases for technology and industry), and it was very helpful to our balance of trade to have a whole lot of immigrant money pour into NZ, and also sharply reduced our debt/GDP ratio which meant less money spent serving debt. The infrastructure development can was kicked down the road as usual. I wish coalition would do more to address it in a pragmatic roading (not delusional green rail fantasies like $100million for 2.5 hour hamilton to auckland 'commuter' service) manner, but seems we will have to wait for next govt to start fixing the problem.

Growing the population to bloody what? Do you not understand that silly notion has no fullstop, it is not a particular number that is ideal, it is that the number continues to grow, and that is just ludicrous. We rely on agriculture for much of our income, it is very finite in what it can produce, so adding more and more people is just bananas.

We don't produce bananas

That's simply not in line with the facts. They only delivered nominal GDP growth through importing more people, then cited soaring house prices as a success, which doesn't help young people. They also left an infrastructural deficit from the reliance on immigration instead of real productivity.

Perhaps you should argue your growth case with Michael Reddell's perspective posted here.

I am neither .. would vote for them any day ahead of the COL. Take your blinkers off ..

do you mean the current 3 way coalition or the previous 4 way coalition?

@ Carlos67 - Agree, but isn't that normally the way we vote in NZ?

I also think this is why a Peter Dunne in the past or dare I say it Winston Peters now keeps getting votes at election time..the voter like myself who cannot abide by either of the larger parties ideology but sadly cant see much of an alternative...its the buffer to stop moving too far left or right.

If Labour gets in they stop them being too liberal and pathetic on crime/welfare/cap gains taxes etc etc and if National get in they stop them selling the country to China to make the books look good short-term....

Either way its a sad state of affairs... the least worst gets the vote :(

It seems to be in a critical stage, that is for sure...

Labour can't afford to keep throwing support away. How many votes did they lose in Taranaki just to keep the greens happy? Now we have Nash (when he can get on a plane), leading the jihad aimed at the 250,000 licensed firearm owners (and voters). I think that the tide is turning. Disappointing because National don't deserve another term so soon.


Chris seems to be totally fine with Rogernomics. He seems to praise the 4th Labour government for undertaking this huge neoliberal transformation where many lost their jobs, farms etc.

That government did NOT have a mandate to make those changes. Lange said so himself in the documentary of his life. This is why they had to stop and "have a cup of tea". Lange and Douglas fell out over these changes.

But then at the end of the article Chris demonises neoliberalism for it's inability to help all (which is true). So which is it Chris? Neoliberalism is either good or bad. Or is it good when Labour does it and bad when National does it?

Exactly. I think the transition need not have been as destructive or as excessive to turn the ship safely around. Rogernomics was just excessive, vicious and spiteful, despite some of the reforms being needed.

In addition, the non nuclear policy came at the worst possible time. Contrast the GFC crisis to the one Lange inherited. John Key, a credentialled New York banker, leading a National government, was able to kow tow to global finance and shield NZ from the worst. Lange, in a wonderfully courageous act of spirited national independence, managed to turn global finance against us. The rejection of US Naval doctrine made them keen on teaching us a lesson. This made the economic adjustment even more vicious than necessary.

Reform is tricky. It is easy to be overly enthusiastic about ideas that seemed good at the time, but didn't actually, well, work. Yet, you must strike when you have a brief period of opportunity.

Perhaps the fact NZ banks weren't mixed up in the mire that Atlantic-siding banks were had more to do with NZ not being hit particularly hard by the GFC.


JK's 'shielding us from the worst' might not be what it seems, in the long run. We've been left with a ridiculous housing debt bubble that is deflating just as the world enters recession. We might regret not taking our medicine in 2009.

True, I think young Kiwis are sick to death of investment banker style "shield"-ing.

Things that you believe just aren't true:
mortgage debt to GDP is same now as at end of Clark Govt, but with massively lowered interest rates the cost of servicing is far lower.

Since 2008:

NZ GDP is up 54%
Median Wage is up 33%

Using Mortgage Debt to GDP is a bit of a fallacy, by that logic the banks should lend based on Mortgage Debt to Average Household Income ratios. What about Mortgage Debt to Employer's Revenue ratios?

if you had bothered to look at the RBNZ graph I provided you would have seen that mortgage servicing as a percentage of disposable income is lower now than at any time since 2000. It's interesting that house affordability was obviously worse during Clark's government given high servicing costs, yet I don't remember seeing anything like the current level of invective as house prices doubled and debt rocketed up under Clark's stewardship. What explains this imbalance? Media bias?

Where's your memory gone?

People voted for John Key because he campaigned on the housing crisis. They just weren't expecting him to then turn around and pretend for nine years that no such crisis existed and soaring house prices were a good problem to have.

And there is obviously more than one measure of affordability. Price to income is another, and that looks terrible. Time taken to save an average deposit is also terrible.


House prices didn't rise Auck 2008-2012, rest of NZ 2008-2015. Rises only started after that, and wasn't obviously a problem till a year or two later after which the scale of the problem and mad speculatory rush made it very difficult to do anything about. High prices and low interest rates are of course two sides of the same coin when supply is constrained. For that we need to blame the govt created regulatory environment, both local (Labour in Auckland Mayoralty since 2010) and national (National 2008-2017) for not providing the supply of land/infrastructure needed, and for increasing the cost of building so much.

One Key facet is that there's a difference between if Key had tried and failed than that he campaigned on the housing crisis then spent nine years denying it existed and celebrating rising house prices as a good problem to have. Then sold out at the top, himself.

One is sincere and ineffective, the second is dishonest and cynical.

Disposable income.. so before paying rising rent, fuel costs etc and being left with a pittance* to save for an ever increasing deposit needed to be able to get that affordable mortgage in the first place?

*for those near the bottom of the heap

It's great for existing home owners who entered the market pre-2008. When we have conversations around housing affordability, it's predominately aimed around First Home Buyers. Nobody has been complaining about the cost of servicing a mortgage either, it's the deposit requirements preventing people from getting on the ladder.

While I absolutely agree that the current gov't lacks talent, gumption, and charisma, the seeming inability of democratically-elected gov't to get things done is not unique to them. It's a world-wide phenomenon, arguably the cause of the rise of the populists. There is no consensus for maintaining the neo-liberal order but there is no consensus on how to change it. The globalised economy is working through a debt addiction, shaking with DTs like an alcoholic trying to go cold turkey. The fallout from that is beyond the ability of gov'ts to control but will largely determine their fate. It's an impossible situation really -- but I'm quite certain that National has even fewer of the answers...

we have been indoctrinated to believe that we can overcome problems through voting and democracy ....
yet politicians are powerless to deal with resource limits imposed by physics
And using debt as a resource proxy will only work for so long

This is a government attempting to win the next election. Don't expect socioeconomic reform or progress. In a way that's actually a government reflective of the views New Zealanders currently hold, without a clear direction.

As is often the case, a frustrating piece from Trotter, full of the good, the bad and the ugly..
On Genter - I have no problem with her anti-car mission. Our whole lives and environments are so dominated by the car, that we need radical push back

Feel free to impose your preferences upon yourself and walk/cycle/bus/train everywhere. Show your commitment to the cause if you believe it is so correct. Also perhaps you can explain to us how you hope to preserve NZ's economic prosperity while instituting such productivity crippling changes.

Such venom foyle. Do you know Fritz doesn't do that already? Or are you just assuming? Or do you feel threatened somehow that 'your road to work' will be somehow less usable than it already is?

I don't understand why every car driver in the country doesn't want better public transport/bike paths etc, esp the ones that live in Auckland.

Every person that isn't driving their car to work is one less person in front of you on the motorway.

If they had half a brain cell the first people on board with these initiatives should be the ones that drive everywhere.

Foyle is a Natbot..has been exposed before

I have? I'd be fascinated to see that - a link to prove you assertion? I've never belonged to, worked for or donated to any political party, and have only ever voted for Nats once. I am happy to admit that I detest the superficial uncritical religious zealotry and general misanthropy of the far left, particularly the greens, happy to consign millions to misery as sacrifices to their ignorance, without consideration of devastating economic consequences, human behaviour, science or history that teaches their folly, and would in so many cases result in worse environmental results than status quo.

Just out of interest, give us your take on the Amazon fires

I don't watch news, but a little searching.... (Nullius in verba, see data for yourself):
Appears to be average in context of last 20 years, bad in context of last few years (about twice normal), and given comments I have seen in recent days apocalyptic in context of current media blitzkreig.

No, your take

I don't really have an emotional response if that is what you are seeking. I don't know the cause, would rather it was far less, but doesn't appear cataclysmic and it's not for me to dictate to poor South Americans how they live (if they and not weather are the cause). As positives: Earth is generally greening with 5-10% increase in photosynthesis in last 20 years, western world is greatly increasing it's forest cover, treeline moving north, Sahal greening. Globally things seem to be moving in positive direction.

So no you know what's given in other words. Not surprised.

Oh look; seems it was a media manufactured catastrophe, as I surmised after 2 minutes looking at data. Quelle surpise. The once dependable sense-making apparatus of the world (4th estate) seems to have become unbalanced and broken as it has moved into advocacy and proselytising.

Seems pretty convenient sort for someone like you to quote, stacks on the mill and all. What makes him any more right or wrong than anyone else, other than you like him, he could just as easily be lying through his teeth to suit his agenda as anyone else.

Actually, I think I'd like to blow his argument about humans locking themselves inside a bubble and leaving the wild to itself. Firstly, at this rate there will be buggar all wildlife to leave alone, and, especially here, what will we be leaving it to, in our case, gorse, wilding pines and all manner of other noxious planet, possums, stoats and all manner of noxious critters. Yep, I can just see that working okay.
We have to continue to play our part in order to try to minimize the damage we have done.
What happens to all the plastic in your world? Where does all the water come from? Where does the food come from? I think that guy is in lala land thinking we can continue to expand our numbers on this planet.

Less than 10% of NZ population have to deal with slow urban commutes - and it's their choice, but we must sacrifice all to appease a few green ideologues? I strenuously object to people who feel relaxed about dictating how other's should live, requiring that others devote their lives to servicing your preferences 'for their own good' is an ugly ugly holdover from historic human power/dominance behaviour mediated by religious fanaticism (with sprinklings of nutty misanthropic ascetic tendencies, hello Greens!) that evolved in times when humans struggled endlessly with famine and benefited from sanctioned conflict/culling in their societies to reduce competition for food. Maximising human happiness is a far more worthy goal.

You can argue the same way in reverse. A huge amount of funding has gone in to roads over the last 50 years. What if you can't drive for whatever reason? You can equally argue that the car-based model has imposed a particular way of living on those people that limits their freedoms.
It shouldn't be about one thing over the other. There should be balance. There hasn't been balance and that needs to be rectified.

And a huger amount of fuel and roading taxes have been paid to pay for them, as well as all the taxes (basically everything) collected on economic activity reliant on road transport. Baring magic there is no realistic alternative to utilising roads for the vast majority of transport requirements in NZ, without cars we would probably not be able to maintain even a 1960's level economy. But to burst the urbanite bubble: rush hour traffic probably affects only 5-10% of vehicle use in NZ. It is not an issue that should be setting policy for the country.

It's not all about the total proportion, it's also about the relative impact.
The awful rush hour congestion in our main centers (and it goes much wider than just Auckland now) is costing our economy big time, let alone the environment.
You don't need to worry, the Greens' ultimate fantasies will never be realised. But I think it's a very good thing if their radical push takes us a little bit away from our unbalanced reliance on the car.
As someone who believes in freedom of choice, wouldn't you see that as a good thing?

I am an optimist as there are several solutions coming in next 5-10 years, before any (now pointless) train projects can be built:
1/ 3-7 years from now ride sharing robo-taxis, high frequency point to point cars, minibuses and bus services become ubiquitous.
2/ 5-10 years from now cheap tunnels with close-packed high speed cars (if boring company works) $50/person/year ends city congestion forever.
3/ 10-20 years from now cheap air taxis (flying now, commercial in 2-3 years), no more need for expensive high density urban living when air-taxis can do a 70km commute in 15 minutes.

Between the advertisers in the MSM and progressive left at RNZ what choice do we have regarding our life style (given we no longer have any other public square than MSM or social media or TM message Board).

CORIN You don’t want immigration to fall, though, do you? I just want to say something. I saw you in a speech after the Budget, and you were speaking to a big room of business people – some of the biggest business minds in the country – and you stood up and you said, “Don’t worry about Treasury’s figure or estimation that it will go back to the trend of 12,000.” You were confident it was going to be a lot higher than that.

JOHN I just think it’s unlikely it will go to 12,000.

CORIN But it was like you wanted immigration to go up, because you were telling them, “Don’t worry. The demand in the economy is going to stay there. That’s what’s keeping New Zealand afloat.”

My point was not to 'ban the car'. My point was that radical policy is required to even slightly rebalance the equation away from car dominance.

As I am sure you know, the model of building more and more motorways which ultimately clog up is not a path to productivity and prosperity.
And fyi I certainly do walk the talk. We are a 4 person household and own one Mazda 2. We use train for a large proportion of our trips.

Fair enough, but public transport isn't now, and never will be viable for 90+% NZers given our outdoors focus and low density suburban and rural living and diffuse industries. Eg Coalition are launching a Hamilton to Auckland commuter rail service for $100million dollars. Capacity of just 600 people daily on 4 trains, commuting time 2.5 HOURS EACH WAY! An obviously doomed vastly wasteful example of brains-free Green/Labour ideology that is worse than status quo ( empty trains have a huge CO2 per passenger footprint). Buses aleady exist.

I totally agree on the Hamilon-Auckland choo choo train. It's a joke. That's the worst of the left for all to see.
But sensible urban projects can help.

Subjectively, l don't have much time for politicians....they're either running for office or running for cover. Objectively, what do we have in the way of leaders? A lightweight who has never done anything, an old fox who is only interested in himself, the green goblin, and of course Simon. Not much in the way of heavy hitters these days. Alas.

Why do we need transformational change? NZ has probably never had it so good. People just focus on headline numbers, but thanks to low inflation, real incomes have been going up for 30 years in a solid but lumpy way. Health outcomes are up, poverty is down. Why should we want a revolution and uncertainty (and worse) when incrementalism is delivering the results over the long term? I say thank god Winston is there to stymie Jacinda's worst impulses and vice versa.

But GDP per capita hasn't? Which is kinda worrying...

This from Michael Reddell - 30+ years at the reserve bank. A pretty unbiased analysis...we've gone no-where in decades v OECD.

How can we change this - surely this is the driver of real wealth increases for us as a nation?

Hmm, I wouldn't agree this analysis is unbiased, but I would agree that NZ never deserved the rockstar economy tag. Hey, we haven't caught up with other OECD countries, but that is likely delusional for a geographically isolated backwater away from the major population centres. Big, rich cities are getting ahead, dragging up the averages, Most of the rest aren't.
I'm satisfied with us keeping up with OECD growth averages while keeping our public debt low, unlike a number of other OECD countries. Or having their currency artificially devalued due to the travails of their poorer neighbours.
There's no evidence that we have the educational infrastructure or resources to rapidly match the big guns in technology, or ever will have. They're leaving more capable countries than us behind. So let's not waste time and resources attempting the impossible. Lets just do one thing right at a time and gradually climb that ladder.

Hilarious, lamenting Neo-liberalism failure to deliver social justice and prosperity for all and then at the same time, praising the lot who started the economic orthodoxy which has plagued the Western liberal democracies for 35 years.

When interest rates have never been lower, we have a "transformational" government so radical that it insists on hair shirt of 21% debt to GDP and refuses to allow Auckland council to borrow more to do the infrastructure needed. AND it won't raise tax to get revenue needed to modernise housing stock. All because I am afraid, Winston has control of the ship due to MMP. An ex-national Finance minister.

Much easier to grow the economy via private household debt. One person's debt becomes another person's credit, spent in the economy and taxed on the way.

Gee Chris, most of the current societal ills stem from the poorly thought out reforms of rogernomics and then ruthenasia following in lethally close proximity. There is no way in two short years with a wildly impotent public service (courtesy of the Nats) that the policy inertia of the neolib era can be arrested. I knew that when I voted for change and expect two or three terms to see things change materially in NZ. I think you should concentrate on the many successes the coalition have acheived. The neolibs had TINA (there is no alternative) I have NVNA (Never Voting National Again) if the rest of the country is accepting of my philosophy we should be ok. Also I would like to change MMP to STV, lower the threshold to 2 % and restore the upper house of parliament so we can have a full bicarmel house. Thank you NZ.

The poorest government we have ever had, but is not their fault!
We all knew that they were devoid of talent and yet there was a sufficient number that voted for them and with our crazy MMP system, we had a coalition of 3 loser parties combining.
They campaigned on many issues and they have achieved nothing!
Reduce child poverty say Ardern, whatever that was meant to mean and how?
Pike River, get the men out! Bollocks, where are we at with that?
Increase minimum wages which is having a devastating effect on many business’s.
Try to kill off the property investors that provide housing for the people that need it!
We will build 100,000 KiwiBuild houses, and we all know where that is at?
The clowns have to go!

Actually, what happened with re-entering Pike mine? It was going to happen end of June or beginning of July, then I went on holiday and missed out on the outcome, did they not re-enter? If not why not?

.. just waiting for Winnie to get better ... remember his offer to be first down the drift if the mine is reopened ..

Time to man up , or be seen forever as a piker . .

Elfin Safety put the kibosh on things, probly... David Farrar has a good summary here.

... ummmm . .

So I take if you're not entirely happy Mr MAN 2 . .. best we tick the box " Not Feeling Good & Wellness " on our survey ... sorry about that . . .

To me Chris's essays have a similar tone and tempo. A bit like the food critic from Ratatouille, it's either a complete disaster or there is a lack of sufficient superlatives.
Jucinda is way younger, way better informed and way healthier than any of the 1984 labor cabinet. Clearly she has the metal and touch for big occasions. Personally I cant imagine voting for the current national senior caucus in any form and I've voted national before.
Who knows what's coming down the line? Plenty of dry powder is not a bad thing and there may come a moment when we need it all.

What is comming is the most forseable downward spiral down trend ever!
There are a few infrastructure projects in the pipeline but not nearly enough.
Any trust placed in Jacinda to act fast and impliment is misplaced.

K R, You could have omitted the words "fast and implement" from your last sentence.

No one is holding their breath for Jacinda to act at all!
This is like watching a slow motion car crash and the people at the wheel are busy looking the other way.

"By under-promising and over-delivering, Helen Clark was able to lead New Zealand for nine years. By wildly over-promising and spectacularly under-delivering, Jacinda Ardern will be lucky to win a second term."

Chris trotter, you could have saved us all some time by only writing the above sentence

Poor CT. Buyers' remorse doesn't begin to describe it. He's sounding grumpy, and (whisper it quietly) Conservative....

He's old, he's white, he's male, what else could he be


With what the National party has come out with today, their goose should be well and truly cooked. Raising the super age was rejected when Labour floated it in 2014, I fully expect it to be again, unless NZ voters are hypocrites.
I wonder what regulations Tru….. I mean Bridges will ditch, can we expect another leaky homes saga or another Pike River?
And can we expect wages to be forced downward again with ramped up immigration and gutting what is left of unions?

Brave move. 67 super will of course be unpopular, but is increasingly mendacious to pretend that 65 is sustainable. Labour chickened out on CGT and I am not particularly hopeful that National will follow through on this if they need minor party support, but good on them for saying it at least. Neither National nor Labour will have a choice in 10-15 years. Would really be better if Labour would match this policy.

The honeymoon is over ............ I don't give it a year

It is clear that the Prime Minister is incompetent and there aren't too many in her team that are competent or have the talent to deliver the changes she articulates. The PM falls into the post-Christian worldview trap of believing in "magic" - words will change reality. However, the governments cannot actually build houses; it takes well trained individuals and Mr. Twyford's "spells" will never conjure up new houses.

If we want change then it takes well thought-out laws, policies, and individuals to deliver on that - working groups do not make for the year of delivery. The PM (Sir John Key was the same) does not have the fortitude to carry through on her promises. However, I am actually grateful for that as her ideas would bankrupt this country rather quickly.

We need to empower individuals and families to control their own destiny which was the aims of the 4th Labour Government. No one ever gets rich or independent if he or she is relying on taxpayer funded welfare.

Chris, why do you think Ardern and Labour have broken their promise to adjust the immigration target? There is a housing and Infrastructure crisis. Yet the focus is on Kiwibuild when they need an additional 40,000 houses a year due to population growth. Why have they shied away from immigration and why do the media never ask about it?