The country’s politics are in an interesting phase. Labour, despite a litany of policy disasters, is still riding the top of its wave, buoyed by the incandescent popularity of Jacinda Ardern.
National is plumbing the depths, as it has done before when it has suffered a massive defeat. ACT, in contrast, believes it is climbing out of the shadows to win broader, and more permanent, support. And Winston Peters has emerged, once more, from the political wilderness and struck the themes which could propel NZ First back into the role which it has played so often before.
Peters scored direct hits on the kind of “woke” politics and policies currently in the ascendancy under the Ardern government, delighting in verbal sprays on the “woke elite” or “Ngati Woke”, cancel culture, the Auckland cycle bridge, the He Puapua report, ditching referendas on Māori wards, the decision to buy the land at Ihumātao, increased state usage of te reo Māori and especially “Aotearoa”.
On the last he asked:
“Who signed up to this plan to change New Zealand’s name? Who was asked. When were you asked?”.
He pointed out, for example, that the recent Climate Change report, titled “Ināia tonu nei“, used the word “Aotearoa” over 1300 times but “New Zealand” only 161 times.
On what he calls “racial separatism”, Peters complained
“Everything in 2021 is now rights-based – or indigenous-rights based – demanding co-governance”.
He said Labour was “enabling a wave of rights-based activism in-and-outside of government”.
Peters also scorned the recently announced rebate for electric vehicles:,
“How many working-class people, regardless of their ethnic background, are going to be able to afford the electric alternative?
But even a politician as wily as Peters hasn’t got the firepower for the sustained onslaught which it seems will be required to puncture the balloon in which Ardern has floated into the political stratosphere.
Nowhere has the Ardern star shone more spectacularly than it did at Field Days at Mystery Creek.
As Jamie Mackay, a veteran commentator, wrote in the NZ Herald:
“The Nats owned Mystery Creek. It was their Turangawaewae. Which makes Ardern’s Fieldays all the more perplexing. Farmers don’t love Labour. And there’s plenty of reasons for farmers to not feel the love from Jacinda’s lot. Not the least, the latest slap in the face in the form of the tone-deaf Ute Tax.
“Then there’s the prospect of overly-penal reforms around zero-carbon, fresh water, winter grazing and livestock numbers. Farming, which is doing all the heavy lifting in the economy, is fast becoming the sacrificial lamb on the altar of climate change.
“And therein lies the problem for Judith Collins and the Nats. With all the fodder they have to feast on, they should be having a field day. The only thing they are feasting on is themselves”.
Clearly there is plenty of scope for Opposition parties – and Winston Peters – to attack the government. But they have yet to find the formula which will dispel the clouds on which Ardern and her cohorts are floating.
As Point of Order sees it, the government’s frailities are obscured because the Covid pandemic is still front and centre in the public mind. The anxiety, even fear, it arouses has pushed aside the policy bungles which are mounting by the week.
The Covid scares such as that which enveloped the capital this week obscures even how shambolic the Covid vaccination programme has been. NZ ranks120th in the world, the poorest-performing of all the OECD countries with which we like to compare ourselves.
But that doesn’t deflate Jacinda. She rolls serenely on.