New Zealand in 2018

2018 has been a year of surprises and thrills, drama’s and spills. It has been a year with no shortage of opportunities for great stories. As it draws to an end, let us have a look at some of the key moments in New Zealand.

For the Government, this has turned into a surprisingly good year. It is not to say that the Labour-led Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did not make mistakes. It has made several. But in the first year of a first term Government, unless the mistakes are fundamental, the public of New Zealand are generally willing to overlook them. The oil and gas announcement in April was just one mistake. Another has been the lack of willingness to announce set policy for dealing with the influence of P and other narcotics in New Zealand.

For the Opposition, having a well oiled machine is one thing, but having enough M.P.’s to stop the Government making meaningful changes is another altogether. No M.P. seeks to be the leader of a party starting its first term after a stint in office, on the Opposition benches. As there is only one occasion in recent history where a Government has lasted only one term in office, it is improbable that National can somehow defeat a Prime Minister who by all accounts is quickly gaining name recognition in New Zealand and abroad.

National will not be helped by the spy scandal that has erupted. The Thompson and Clark spy scandal has already cost the head of Southern Response. It might well cost more as the extent of the surveillance becomes known, particularly if it was in breach of New Zealand law. Legal changes under urgency that were passed in 2013 point to an assault on peoples basic human rights such as the right to peaceful assembly by stealth. And now opponents to such laws have been found to be illegally watched by T.C.I.L.

Economically 2018 has been a mixed year. The fuel prices reached an all time high and then abruptly tapered away, whilst the stubbornly high cost of living, international instability caused by Sino-American trade wars, a weakening New Zealand dollar have all contributed to lingering uncertainty over the near future.

Environmental issues such as climate change, waste, fresh water and biodiversity show ever increasing signs of becoming fundamental problems. We all need clean water to drink and a healthy ecosystem to form the basis of the food chain. These were given a lower priority under the National-led Government and are enjoying a surge in support under Labour.

The murder of Grace Millane justifiably shocked New Zealand, but the outrage appeared to ignore due process, with people on social media demanding that a person who has not yet entered a plea and may – for all we know – be innocent, be sentenced to life in prison. Others were calling for the death penalty. What they all forget though is that real justice involves both sides having a fair trial. This cannot happen if New Zealanders try to be the judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. Perhaps, if any good comes out of this tragic case, it is that an example is made of the tendency for prejudice in the justice system.

So we move forward towards 2019 wondering how much of 2018 it will pick up and how much will be consigned to the history bin, New Zealanders can take pride in the Government putting emphasis on being caring and compassionate. Not all Governments even know the meaning of these two words, let alone put them into practice, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has amply demonstrated the usefulness of both.

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