How planning for the next pandemic can only be improved if we probe the Ardern Govt’s handling of Covid-19

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, basking in the  headlines  generated  by  being New Zealand’s mourner-in-chief  for  our  late  monarch, may  find  it  has  halted  the  slump in  Labour’s  polling.

Or,  at  least,  she  may be  hoping it  has  done  so.

The  poll results released last  week — both  the  Taxpayers’ Union Curia  and Talbot  Mills  sampling— showed  Labour  support  slipping, to as low as 33.4% in the  Curia poll.

More significantly, they show enough support for the  Opposition parties to  form the  next  government.

The  media’s fascination with the scenes in  London,  as  Ardern  talks  to  Royalty  and  rubs  shoulders  with international leaders,   leave  little  room  on  the  news  channels  for  the  darkening  clouds  at  home.

Her  deputy,  Grant  Robertson,  gamely   claims  to  be  “optimistic” about  NZ’s  economic prospects,  even   as   he  sees   “big seas  ahead”.

Business leaders in  Auckland  who  listened  to  him  on Friday   heard  him  say  the  Government’s  Covid  measures  had  saved  lives  and  jobs  before  he  conceded “we  cannot  deny  they  also  cast a  shadow, especially  on New  Zealanders’  mental  health”.

Nevertheless he,  like  his  leader,  is  shying  away  from the   need  for  a  royal commission   to  probe  the  lessons  that  could  be  learned  from  the  way  the  pandemic  was  handled.

Opponents  like ACT’s  David  Seymour  have  been  calling   for  an  inquiry. Seymour  contends  the  impacts  of  NZ’s  response  have  been immense.

“We have  reason to  believe  there  will be  significant  impacts  on our  children’s education , mental health, benefit  dependency, crime, social cohesion, business strength, and  infrastructure for  years and  years  to  come”.

Steven Joyce  has a different  perspective  on the  need  for  a  royal commission.

“People died, some from Covid and some from other things that could be traced to the choices we made about Covid.We owe it to ourselves and to the memory of those lost to stop and take stock.

“We need to examine what worked and what didn’t. What had the biggest positive effect and what was more trouble than it was worth? When should we have moved more quickly, including both into and out of restrictions, and when should we have waited longer?”

Joyce  says a Covid inquiry should not be a journey of recrimination or blame.

“Responding to a pandemic like this was never going to be a game of perfect. This has been a crazy two-and-a-half years of big decisions on top of big decisions where there was no game plan to work from. Nobody could have got everything right.

“Some things obviously worked, some obviously didn’t, and the jury is still out on many more”.

 He  also  pointed  out  there were premature celebrations that our economy “avoided a recession”.

“The June quarter of 2022 was never the test. The real scorecard will come in the next year or so as we battle inflation caused by the Covid response with the medicine of much higher interest rates and a sharp contraction in money supply.

“Long Covid is as much a description of the economic and social hangover as it is of one aspect of this pernicious disease”.

As Joyce  sums  it up:

 “If we do this inquiry right, we will have a game plan for next time.  We now have a golden opportunity to perfect a blueprint for future pandemics”. 

Then he  sets  out  what an inquiry could  traverse:

  • How much did hard lockdowns achieve versus what other lesser restrictions could have?
  • Could we keep working on, say, big construction sites with strong health and safety protocols without adding significantly to the risk?
  • Could we keep butchers and fruit and vege stores safely open in hard lockdowns?
  • How could we manage our border more humanely and stay connected to the world without materially worsening the risk?
  • What should be the threshold for closing our schools, and what are the true costs to the children of doing so, balanced against the risks of virus transmission?
  • How do we scale up hospital capacity quickly without sending ourselves broke in the meantime?
  • Is there a better procurement system we should use for buying urgently needed equipment and vaccines?
  • And how do we ensure contestable advice from others besides the public health people, while respecting their expertise?

Point  of  Order agrees that finding   answers  to those issues  is  vital if  NZ  is  to  do  a  better  job  the  next time it is  confronted  by  an pandemic.

The  problem  is  that  the  Government doesn’t appear  ready  to  concede it  wasn’t   as  world-leading  as  it  claimed  to  be in  its  response.  Or  that  it  might  be  blamed  for falling  educational standards  or  rising  mental  health  cases.

And  the  Government  may  be  worried  that a  Royal Commission  could  table  its  report   just  as  the  country  moves  into  an election  campaign .

3 thoughts on “How planning for the next pandemic can only be improved if we probe the Ardern Govt’s handling of Covid-19

  1. Do I think that we will get an open and transparent, unfettered enquiry? Hell no. This government, and Ardern in particular, are incapable of accepting that there is any way but their way. After all, they saved 80,000 lives. Yeah, right.


  2. Hi Good article. But you’ve missed the big horrifying developing story, which is excess deaths. Check out Dr John Campbell latest update (UK Dr that is a data zealot and now clearly worried that we have a bigger emerging problem). You’ll find him on YouTube and a year ago was exploring everyone to get jabbed.

    By the way, I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I’m triple jabbed and now wishing I wasn’t.

    Regards Grant Howie

    Sent from my iPhone



  3. The decision to shut down certain businesses and industries during the lockdowns was certainly imperfect in the choices that they made.
    I worked throughout the initial lockdown as an essential worker (wasn’t eligible for any government handouts) and drove an hour each way on empty car-less roads to join 70 others (a number of them young backpackers recently arrived from Covid hotspots like Italy & China) packing kiwi fruit into boxes for export markets around the world (not before going into cool stores- an ideal environment for this virus to lay dormant). Throughout the daily operation, we worked at close quarters, unmasked, but wearing hairnets instead. At smoko and lunch break we queued to wash our hands and were forced to stand 2 metres apart and socially distance while eating before returning to work side by side again. It was ridiculous! Meanwhile the management stayed at home, working (ha!) remotely for a month. When they finally returned, someone decided we should be getting our temperature checked each morning. This was after the country had mostly eliminated the virus. Why other industry, especially those working outside in the autumn sunshine, couldn’t is beyond me. I expect Ardern’s incompetent government don’t want to answer any of those questions.


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