After such a turbulent year as 2017 turned out to be in New Zealand, it must be tempting to throw out the proverbial manual on writing such articles as this and wing it. After all, who knew on 01 January 2017 that Jacinda Ardern would be Prime Minister? Who knew that the flip side of this coin would be that Bill English, who probably had every right to think he was going to be the Prime Minister for the new N.Z. Parliamentary term, despite having the largest party in Parliament would be relegated to the Opposition benches.
Who in February 2017 with scrub fires blazing on the Port Hills above Christchurch could have foreseen the unbelievably wet, cold and stormy winter that would follow with Christchurch ending the year with 127% of its annual rainfall having fallen?
In fairness I don’t think anyone could have really predicted any of this. And so it is on that note with both curiosity and trepidation that I make my predictions for the year 2018 in New Zealand.
The remainder of the first 100 days will be as rocky as those already gone for the new Labour Government But with them gone, I think the Government will find a bit of a delayed honeymoon starting to set in as people see that the minority Government is capable of making serious changes and the the first ones start to take effect. Issues such as the financial ambitions of this Government will continue to be a source of ammunition for National, whilst Labour and the Greens will be able to counter by pointing out National’s disregard for social issues.
Areas where Labour are already starting to have an impact are earthquake insurance as the number of Christchurch residents waiting to sort out their claims continues diminishing ever so slowly. Earthquake Minister Megan Woods has sounded the call to action in a way that one would have expected National to do in 2012-13.
With environmental concerns around electronic waste, plastics, climate change and loss of biodiversity growing, Labour and the Greens have a chance to stamp our authority on environmental issues once and for all. With concerns about fresh water quality and supply, the lack of investment in non-road based transport, there is also scope for New Zealand First to get stuck in with regional development.
The dodgy state of international affairs might put off many diplomats, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters will have opportunities to push New Zealand’s case at the United Nations with refugees. They will also be able to match our rhetoric as a nation not believing in armed aggression with support for issues such as the Iranian nuclear deal; resuming peace talks between Israel and Palestine and defusing the North Korean crisis before it explodes.
An area of surprise might be criminal justice. Having watched the explosion of dairy robberies under the previous Government as criminal elements seek tobacco or ways to fund their next drug hit, Justice Minister Andrew Little has a chance to go one up on National failure to act in 9 years.
Politics aside, I expect New Zealand to do well at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, as well as at the para games to follow. Medals will be won in things such as the cycling, the net ball, and in the pool. The Black Caps will continue to perform well in the cricket, including getting key wins against England and Pakistan. The All Blacks will find themselves trying to address ongoing concerns about sexism in their outfit and will lose a critical match.
Social issues that will rark us up will be without doubt:
- The road toll
- Mental health – there might be a new Government, but there are still plenty of people stuck in situations with no one prepared to help them
- Scaremongering – or rather the complete misunderstanding of the intention of scientists involved in natural hazards research telling us about their latest findings and then being accused of scaremongering