Will Jacinda Stand? Or, Has She Already Fallen?


MATTHEW HOOTON has raised the possibility of Jacinda Ardern being gone by Christmas.   (Paywalled) He puts forward the scenario of New Zealand becoming as debilitated and beleaguered by Delta as New South Wales and Victoria. With the number of community cases surging above a thousand every day, the hospitals overwhelmed, and people dying for lack of ICU beds, Hooton insists that not only would Jacinda be obliged to go, but also, being a fundamentally decent person, she would want to go. The unfolding Covid disaster being of her making, the Prime Minister would see it as her moral duty to resign.

Sadly, Hooton’s scenario is by no means preposterous. Were New Zealand to be overwhelmed by the Delta variant of Covid-19, the Prime Minister and her government would have to accept that the disaster occurred on their watch. Jacinda and Chris Hipkins, her Covid Response Minister, would have no choice but to resign. The Right would, of course, be delighted at this turn of events, and the Left devastated. New Zealand would be in an ugly, truculent, mood. Many people would be very frightened. The future would be bleak.

How did it come to this? At what point did Jacinda’s extraordinary saga of Covid success suddenly pivot towards failure?

Most New Zealanders would identify the Trans-Tasman Bubble as the culprit. The whole idea was fraught with the most awful potential for disaster. Opening our borders, even to the Australians, was seen (by what the pollsters told us was a majority of the population) as an unnecessarily risky proposition.

Most Kiwis saw the Bubble as the product of incessant lobbying by the tourism and hospitality industries – egged-on relentlessly by the news media. Put to a vote, the proposition would, almost certainly, have been defeated. That Jacinda and her colleagues scorned the backing of the people, and succumbed to the pressure of vested interests, was taken, by her followers, as a very bad sign.

To some degree, the edge was taken off their disquiet by the Government’s repeated warning to those determined to take advantage of the Bubble that they were doing so against its advice and at their own risk. If the Bubble burst, and they found themselves trapped, then they would be on their own. The New Zealand state would not be sending planes to rescue them.

Why the Government didn’t stick to its guns when, inevitably, the Bubble did burst, is perplexing. Once again the majority wanted Jacinda to show the travel-gamblers some “tough love”. And, once again, she ignored them, and allowed herself to be pressured into sending rescue aircraft by the news media.

It was a fatal error. By refusing to stand firm, the Prime Minister had effectively invited the media and business groups to keep her and her government under constant pressure. If a politician shows that she can be moved, then she will be moved.

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Inevitably, and as a huge number of Kiwis had predicted from the outset, those two decisions: to establish the Bubble; and then to bring the travel-gamblers home; brought the Delta variant of Covid-19 into New Zealand.

At first, Jacinda still appeared to know exactly what to do: Go hard. Go early. The world laughed at New Zealand: hurling itself into a draconian lockdown in response to just one community case seemed wildly excessive. But its citizens were quietly proud of their leader’s decisiveness. This was their country’s extraordinarily successful “elimination strategy” at work. This was how you “stamped-out” the virus – by staying home and staying safe.

It was at this point that the business community and the news media, confident that the Prime Minister and her colleagues could be spooked into doing exactly the wrong thing, unleashed a no-holds-barred campaign to abandon the elimination strategy. By “learning to live with the virus”, said the business community (ably assisted by their political and media mouthpieces) New Zealand could once again open itself up to the world. As soon as 90 percent of Kiwis got themselves vaccinated, the whole country would be able to relax and settle into a new normal.

It was dangerous nonsense, of course. Moving out of Level 4 before 95 percent of the country had been vaccinated, or, before the number of community cases had fallen back to zero, was asking for trouble – and the scientific community urged the Government to keep the country locked down tight. Tragically, Jacinda and her government were no longer being guided by “the science”. Somewhere along the way, Jacinda had lost faith in her “Team of Five Million’s” ability to stay the course. Somehow, a virus of political doubt and indecision had started spreading amongst her ministers and advisers. Fatally, she allowed herself to be persuaded to move New Zealand out of Level 4.

And the rest we know.

Yes, yes, yes! People were weary of lockdown. That is true. But they were also very wary of relaxing their grip. What they wanted, what they needed, was the sort of clear, calm and compassionate leadership Jacinda had provided during the first nationwide lockdown.

They wanted, for example, to hear the Prime Minister give the country a clear steer on everyone’s responsibility to get vaccinated, and on what would happen to those who refused. Kiwis just weren’t in the mood to let lockdown evaders and anti-vaxxers free ride on their good citizenship, and they wanted Jacinda to reassure them that she had no intention of letting them get away with it. Google’s IT wizards confirmed that Kiwis were, overwhelmingly, staying in their bubbles. The lockdown was holding. They were keeping the Covid faith.

It wasn’t New Zealand who blinked, it was Jacinda.

In his vast epic poem, Paradise Lost, John Milton described humankind as “sufficient to have stood, but free to fall”. Those words may yet serve as the epitaph of Jacinda Ardern’s career. In 2020, the whole country witnessed the extraordinary sufficiency of her leadership, and how it allowed her country to stand against the Covid-19 virus. How tragic it would be if 2021 is remembered – as Hooton clearly hopes – as the year she freely chose to fall.

But, is “freely” really the right word? How long can any politician be expected to stand against the sort of political and media pressure our Prime Minister has been forced to endure? How strong can she be if her own colleagues are counselling her to take the path of least resistance? How would our wartime leaders have fared if they had been required to endure the same lies and half-truths; the same reckless appeals to base emotion; and the same shameful absence of patriotic restraint; as Jacinda Ardern? These are questions which the National and Act parties, along with the solipsistic show-ponies of the mainstream media, should be required to answer.

Because it is possible that, until very recently, Jacinda remained sufficient to have stood. Which means that, if all Covid hell does break loose, and she is forced (not least by her own conscience) to resign, then we should all ask ourselves: Did she freely fall – or was she pushed?



  1. Well put Chris.
    What we needed from a leader at this crucial moment was steely resolve, ruthlesness and a war time mentality that dispatched opponents and nay sayers.
    Democracy, kindness and trying to please everyone will be Jacindas undoing when the country turns on her.

  2. The traitor is reaping what she sowed. She threw the poor huddled renters under the bus by giving their dirty landlords a lotto win whilst they got absolutely nothing and they have rightly told her to fuck right off. May she move to another country soon where they appreciate right wing woke elitists.

  3. Chris you say “The Right would, of course, be delighted at this turn of events.”
    NO!… and I hope I am not the exception here, I would not be delighted at all. It would be a devastation scenario for NZ. I would not want any of it and we rather had a change of govt, or not if that’s the outcome, after a fair fight election. For what it’s worth, there is no right party that is ready to run the show any better. There could be down the line, but not as it stands now. Until then, I hope this govt gets its badly scripted act together and pulls some kind of rabbit out of the hat to handle the virus.

    • For all the crap you have dished out over the past months Kraut you have just proved how shallow your views are.

      • garibaldi, you are so intellectual, so clever.
        Greenbus, of it was the rightwing, what else, ey?, the standard go to answer for all lefties.
        What do want me to say?…. “I hope she gets done in by a virus pandemic”? I don’t hope that. How would it help? We can’t or wouldn’t magically switch govt without an election, would we? There is no credible alternative. So best they get on top of the thing. Just wish they were more firm. Lax approach to law and order is my main reason for the whole thing falling apart. No real respect for govt orders. Nobody cares what the ministers or cops say. There is no consequence to misbehavior. Look at the Police Minister, never been a cop. And the Commissioner…just a feeble puppet. Labour clone. Hardly a cop. The firm message from govt should have been: “Don’t fuck with our plan, don’t fuck with our orders. Or else”. There is no ‘Or else’ any more. It’s ‘do what you want’. There, more shallow views (shared by millions I bet!).

        • Kraut you imply that a “good” right wing govt could fix things. Can’t you comprehend that it is free market Capitalism that has burdened us with the problems we have, and putting a right govt in to fix them is the same as throwing fuel on a fire to put it out.

          • I would like to know how free market capitalisim got us here? From my perspective, it is not capitalisim that has crippled this country. NZ was in a much better place before Labour got in. Homes were cheaper, debt was down, taxes were down, less poverty, less people on government support, better healthcare system, less division and racism the list goes on.

            I do agree, National at the election was shambles but this was not helped by the media, which took Jacinda’s side and continues to do so.

            We have had over a year to get people into the country and train people in the basic, easy tasks for ICU. This is a pandemic so some saftey needed to be removed to save lives over all. But nothing happened. Now we are in massive debt with a government that has delivered nothing but the problems listed above. Yes, National wasn;t great.

            At the end of the day, this country wont be great under MMP. We need a new system that votes each position in individually without being on either side. no teams, no coalitions, just people who ask the majority what they want and then fulfil the majorities wishes.

            To think a small group of politicians can come up with better ideas than the whole country is preposterous, just as preposterous as locking down a country with no plan past that.

            • You need to do your homework Scotty the country was in a fucken mess why do you think John left on his own accord.

    • Bullshit Kraut. The right wing National/Act are squarely to blame for promoting opening up and relaxing restrictions to get the economy and business back to normal. The media as usual have done shitloads of damage to the team of 5 million collective. Constant bleating from Collins and Seymore has intentionally whipped up emotions of every anti vaxxer and covid denier to push back against the covid response. Unrelenting whinging from tourism and hospitality have added to the treasonous pressure to open up far to early. Once again neo liberalism has got it’s way with us, and once again, against the majority wishes.

      • Jeez Labour is a majority govt no one else can do shit except blow piss and wind.

        Any and all decisions and responsibility for said decisions sit with Jacinda and her caucus.

        Dont be an apologist.

      • Removing the bill of rights in order to save people is a big call, one that almost all the country has allowed. But something so big as to remove rights needs to have a solid plan, and open debate. Open debate has been removed entirely and because of that, misinformation has gone rampant.

        I am not Anti-Vax, but I also will not get this vaccine and that is my right. The vaccine doesn’t stop the spread, that is common knowledge everywhere in the world accept here it seems. It does slow hospitalization rates though, so those who are at high risk or over 60 should be lining up, which in most cases has happened. However, not letting the virus in is going to cause much more death and here is why.

        The vaccines only have a 3 – 6 month high efficacy. After that, you need boosters to keep up immunity. The point of the vaccines are not to stop you getting covid, but to make it more bearable. The longer we wait from vaccine dose, the less effect it has. One could argue its already been to long for those that got the vaccine first, which will be those that were most at risk.

        We should have set a date right from the start, told people the best way to avoid getting sick, followed what is working overseas (ivermectin, which is banned here for some reason), given everyone a O2 sensor so they know when to go to hospital or not, and gone with it. If everyone new that date, they would line up and those that don’t run the risk of dieing (if they are high risk, which is about 1,000,000 people in NZ.

        Covid was never going to go away, the elimination strategy was always destine to fail and the plan we have in place will kill thousands when the virus gets in. That is life. Covid still wont even put a dent in the daily deaths compared to all other causes of mortality in this country which lead to 100 deaths per day on average. Everyone will focus on it, get sad with each and every death, and not even pay attention to the other people that die daily.

      • The opposition is relaying what their supporters want but this is just noise. The government is in charge, if the government moves from its preferred position based on what the opposition is saying it is more a problem with them not the opposition.

        Unfortunately both major parties are too focused on short-term public opinion and not long term visions. I honestly think John Keys inclusion into this space last week created panic and ultimately bad messaging from Ms Arden and the government. They are lucky there is no alternative just like National was lucky when they were in power.

  4. Oh for goodness sake!! Why are you preempting this scenario, Trotter? Fanning the flames of discontent? Tell me who else would have handled Covid any better? You? I few more COVID cases is starting to make Kiwis sit up an take notice at last. Yes, this is real. This is serious. 28 deaths? Whoa!!! You don’t know how lucky you have been!! Time to say thank you and get yourselves vaxxed, New Zeealand.

    • Prunella Promises Well said. The vaccination issue itself is quite complex.

      I was a little astonished to see Marama Davidson chirping about trying to convince her nephews and nieces that isn’t all a perfidious Pakeha scam after her previous efforts in telling the world that Pakeha are out to get Maori. Regrettable damage done there.

    • Well said PP. For Trotter to base his article on that fool Hooton’s views is ridiculous and I’m sad that Trotter has sunk to that level. Hooten or whatever his name is, supported the nobody (cant’ even recall his name) who stood for leader of National and was a dismal disturbed failure crapping out after a couple of weeks. The Hootens and Trotters of this world know the Michael Shermer dictum that negativity is seen as thrice important as positive information. They’ve got to make a living after all and might as well make it easier than reporting facts.

    • I totally agree. It’s unfortunate that people wants New Zealand to fail , why is this ? I think its because its a woman running the Covid response and the right wing and the far left can’t stand it. Its misogyny at its worst. The shock jocks show no respect, they are rude and obnoxious and have complained every step of the way. Now we have Mr. Trotter having his two penny worth and of all things quoting Matthew Hooton, give me a break, who in his right mind would believe anything he says after his National party debacle What is wrong with you people. This is a time for all New Zealanders to join forces to fight this virus, because at the end of the day whether you like it or not we are fighting a virus not the government. History will show the unkindness of the MSM. and the bullying sexist treatment of the PM. In latter days this would have been called treason.

  5. “At what point did Jacinda’s extraordinary saga of Covid success suddenly pivot towards failure?”

    At the point all the money printing went into the pockets of financers and wealthy equity holders, instead of being invested to expand the health care system and purchase vaccines earlier. The original strategy bought so much time, had the push for 90% started 6 months earlier we wouldn’t be here. The government said the vaccines weren’t available and refused to pay the price at the time. I find it interesting that they also refuse to make public how many vaccines were purchased and at what price after Delta broke out. Were they really unwilling to pay the price earlier, or was it that there wasn’t enough negative press motivating the government to do so?

    Long story short, NZ got smug, sat on its haunches, watched the rich get richer on misguided stimulus, and got needlessly blindsided by the Delta mutation.

    • The Government’s biggest failure is exactly as you said – becoming smug about our lockdown success last year, resting our our collective laurels, and not vaccinating everyone earlier at pace and with smarter ways to reach the resistant communities.

  6. Great stuff Chris.

    My only hope is that before the outbreak gets much worse, to prevent more unecessary suffering and deaths, the Prime Minister will recover her nerve, to face down the vested interests, and reimpose a hard level 4 lockdown until the virus is eliminated again.

    And New Zealand again becomes the envy of the world.

    This is my hope.

    • That is effectively getting rid of one problem that will cause death in the older generations who have not been vaccinated, in order to pass it on to the younger generations that are going to have to pay higher taxes, rely on the government more and increase poverty. Not a great thing to hope for.

  7. Once SirKey’s smarmy visage popped up all over the media channels, any doubt that there had been a co-ordinated campaign to “open up” and “let COVID rip” was removed. Day after day, month after month, the whingers and lobbyists and snipers were online and on air and in what remains of print.

    It shows both the seriousness of a Pandemic, and the fill their pants horror of business, that two of the most focus group and poll driven politicians ever seen in NZ–Mr Key and Ms Ardern–have both ignored the 70% plus support for lockdowns and not ditching elimination.

    Mr Hooton is the tactical and strategic genius that bought us Todd Muller (Todd who? as events quickly transpired) so he is just projecting his usual malevolent thoughts, and also stating the obvious. He is in among the motley crew that history will view as the true failures in this awful situation.

    It has to be said though, that the NZ Labour Caucus inability to move on from Rogernomics is another reason COVID could end in total disaster. The alienated and impoverished that have not received enough attention are proving a spanner in the works of higher vaccination levels.

    But it is not all over yet, and Jacinda Ardern has done so much already in putting public health first for so long. A class left leader could easily salvage this along the lines Chris suggests, but the PM is not that leader at this point due to extraordinary pressure on her–ironically if she appealed to the 70% she would get support in spades. That number is not going to last for too much longer.

  8. Great article and yes all we had to do was keep people out until we had the chance to get everyone vaccinated . . and we in effect threw it all away with the ‘travel bubble’ and then bowing to pressure from those Kiwi’s who felt they simply couldn’t live without being able to go shopping in Melbourne.
    You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  9. The fact that Chris has brought his thoughts on this to this post and quoting Hooten, who we know is like a rat who can sense a sinking ship, makes the idea a probability, if Covid really takes hold. There is only two differences of opinion I would have. Firstly Chris emphasises the media and business pressure on Jacinda to open up. I wouldn’t be that generous. Jacinda does what she thinks will keep her popular. She was strong and unbending when she locked down to start with so why change. She was starting to loose popularity with thousands of NZrs both in an out of the country is why. The other point is that National will be very happy to capitalise on Jacinda’s demise but will know that they will then have to drink from the poisoned chalice. If Covid gets hold here any incoming government will be facing a health crisis and economic melt down. There won’t be too much celebrating.

    • New View you are saying the PM’s popularity of the 1% stranded overseas is more important than the 70% support in Aotearoa??? With logic like that I’m glad your not designing our “road map” out of covid because it looks like a disaster waiting to happen as it is. There is no doubt the vested interests are as good as to blame when this turns to custard except all you righties are too blind to see it. This is typical of the right, power at any cost.

      • GB I’m saying she goes for the popular vote where ever it is. Don’t read something into my comment that isn’t there. I certainly wasn’t in favour of her backing down and sending aircraft to Aus to pick up those who took the risk to go there. Don’t blame me. Blame your weak as piss leader.

  10. I don’t think I’ll be reading or commenting at daily blog anymore. Too many examples of the ability to type and opinionate being greater than the ability to think. The fevered brain covid fascistos here are pathetic. Too fearful and stupid to be of any use.

    • Yes the synapse explosion brigade are certainly, if not running the place, out and about and frisky the last few months on TDB! Well explained different positions are part of political debate, but it is a challenge to discern what some commenters here are actually trying to say…

    • Well said seer. Idiots like jonesy crying fake revolution don’t help. Chris Trotter is an agent provocateur from way back, his commentary lands with the right 80% of the time.

      • What you fail to understand is that I want house prices to crash allowing poor and young people to get into affordable homes, I find homelessness abhorrent, I despise elites, I want benefits to increase for the poor (NOT MONEY TO GO TO SCUMLORDS), I want a CGT where all the money earned goes to stopping child poverty, I want unions to be empowered stopping ALL worker exploitation and yet after all this I am of the right according to Daryl because I am disgusted in Jacinda not doing any of the above?

        The Jacinda fascists are destroying Labour because her perceived wonderfulness is hindering them seeing what is truly happening to New Zealand under her watch.

        We need a new leader who is actually Labour based and not a National cuckoo with the ability of mesmerising the meek.

        • Yep take the blinkers off and its plain this govt has been a disaster for this country right up with the 4th Lab govt.

          The disaster that is housing with record increases in Prices, Rents and emergency accommodation will scar this country well after covid has faded from memory…

          Popularity is so high because not even the Nats could deliver such gains for the land owning classes.

          Jacinda, brought and paid for the wolf in sheeps clothing.

    • Well, don’t bother to threaten us all, just do it Seer. I look forward to not seeing your asshole comments again.

  11. Fact of the matter is because we did not have purpose built remote isolation facilities, 100% staff vaccination and scrupulous daily MIQ and related staff testing in a less invasive manner, i.e. saliva, rather than jamming sticks up their noses, Delta was always going to get in at some point. And once in we were stuffed.

    It is also a fact that repeat lockdowns in Auckland always had an expiry date and by August we were well past that as winning option. And option it was because the consequences for breaking lockdown were none existent and the police were not interested in doing much about it but “educating”.

    And although indefinite locking Auckland or NZ down under level 4 may suit people in their retirement years, the buy in from the younger audience was not strong, if there at all much less business owners watching their livelihoods disappear in front of their eyes.

    And you’re delusional if you think Level 4 was going to last into November, much less Christmas, much much less next year.

    Jacinda has surrendered to the reality of the situation. Some of this was clearly avoidable but there was always a sense of inevitability of it arriving. And whose to say it hasn’t leaked out since as well via MIQ?

    Calling for the PM’s head over this is mindless. Under National, ACT, we would have been the UK.

    Jacinda and her governments collective failure to tackle housing and all the many serious problems that creates, (some relate to this very issue), is quite another matter however.

  12. The irony of course is that slowly but surely evidence is being leaked that the failure of the outbreak is due to a carte blanche attitude around gang movements by the police and MOH once they identified covid was in this grouping. It’s like the cast of ‘Allo Allo’ was liaising with the gangs.

    The response from the left that somehow the Prime Minister is the victim of some vast right wing agenda is quite frankly insulting. The Prime Minister and her inner sanctum of advisors tightly controlled the management and flow of information of covid. Any decisions and resultant failure therefore is hers and hers alone. Pointing out failure isn’t a conspiracy and if it is then our media and independent thought is dead.

    • Prepare for more insults Frank. The pressure to open up is all from the right wing nutjobs. The sleepy hobbits will eventually realise this and mass confusion will reign supreme. Who to vote for? Covid failure or National?
      Well done “the right”, job done. What else can you fuckup now?

      • GB. Governments aren’t supposed to cave into any group of which Rw nut jobs (as you describe them)are one. You seem to feel Jacinda and her Government had some sort of unfair pressure put on them. All interested groups should just leave us to do our job as government without criticism. Governments are full of grown up people that can say NO to anybody they like, if it’s policies stacks up. For you to somehow blame business people, right wing extremists, (anybody with a different view to you) and an opposition that hasn’t had power for over four years, that’s not realistic.

      • Sorry GreenBus
        Your pressure argument and blaming others won’t wash. She’s the big kahuna. The buck stops with her. THAT IS THE JOB! Caving into pressure when you have a clear plan is a sign of insecurity. So what is it?…plan not clear? or insecure? Or even both? I tell you what happened…everything this govt does is driven solely by ‘will it keep us popular and above 50%?’. She’s scared of the polls. She’s a ‘thumbs up for like’ PM. Now you can slate me and tar me and feather me for that, but I will get plenty support for that theory – even from this forum….watch!

        • T K you’ve got my thumbs up. She’s a populist PM. From day one. With the impossible to do list to get elected, the no I won’t run again if I get beaten at the last election, to going social media for the young voters who don’t vote, to backing off a CGT. Shallow, useless. They love her because she’s nice and genuine. Oh OK. And I haven’t even mentioned Covid. That’s a game if two halves.

        • The Krauts correct and what the sycophantic commenters on here fail to understand when they say “well look at Jacindas preferred PM polling” is that the people voting for her are not Labour supporters, they are rich asset owners. This is not something to be proud of.

  13. Maybe the Minister for Tourism telling half of the country to ‘pivot’ to some other income stream while not providing much assistance had something to do with the demand to open of the borders. A bit of money coming in, surely i would assume Grant Roberston is worried about his GST take, some family re-unions yeah yeah. It would have worked, had a. NSW shut down completely with the first case, and had NZ closed the door with the first case. But no, we had to pretend that we could control a virus that is running rampage all over the world and which kills indiscriminately. And fwiw, no gov not Labour nor National had any issues raking in good amount of GST and other taxes thanks to tourism.
    Thinking that we could just stand by and see what the rest of the world does and then pick n choose of the vaccines/cures etc thanks to our location, was also a bit ‘prideful’ imo. Thinking that starting the vaccination run in earnest by End of July – 28th to be precise, as we had not ordered enough vaccines to start hard n fast already in January, was also not helpful, momentum was lost, people got ‘educated’ and now we have to deal with people who don’t want to wear masks, don’t want to vaccinate and don’t want to obey by the new rules anymore.
    I have not voted for her, but right now I would not want her to resign. A. Grant Roberston would be worse. B. You fucked it up, now clean it up. Then resign, do not run again, and go get a well paid job in a nice think tank somewhere near a lot of water so hubby can continue to go fishing while there is still some fish to be caught.

  14. Unfortunately for Ardern the covid was going to enter NZL no matter what. Be it from the the trans tasman bubble or from foreign ship and aircraft crew rotating through here.

    There was no way, even if turning NZL into a hermit kingdom for ever more, was covid not going to arrive here.

    Problem was for Ardern was the false belief that the elimination of covid was possible and acted out as if it was.

    That is what she will be judged on.

    Can she recover and lead the nation forward to living with covid and the people be free at the same time? For that is the next scenario the people want. Locking the North Island up till the new year is simply not going to cut the mustard. And when it spreads further south then what will she do?

    Leaders step up when the going gets touch, does Ardern have the mongrel?

  15. The push has been relentless from the start & certainly not in the interests of the country or for the well-being of our people. Politics has trumped science, and many of our most vulnerable will bear a heavy cost. Get vaccinated now if you haven’t already. Buckle up, the road ahead is going to get bumpy.

  16. The public overall wants the impossible- to be really safe from Covid but also to be free of restrictions and periodic lock-downs. Not even Jacinda can promise or deliver that, so her comms focus went onto getting 90%+ vaccinated as a collective effort and a national goal.

    But 90%+ fully vaxxed (across every ethnicity, and region, town) looks increasingly impossible, so moving away from increasingly ignored restrictions is held hostage to the anti-vax mentality/conspiracy theories.

    It is very wrong to say without proper polling ‘what the people want’ or ‘the community feels’. We all live in social bubbles of friends, family and colleagues and then we think those people represent the rest of the nation.

  17. The difference between now and the first lockdown is the vaccine. When there was no alternative but to keep it out we all worked together. The psychological falsity that being jabbed was going to be the alternative to elimination enough people have relaxed their support for the virus to win.
    We could still eliminate it if everyone accepted that the vaccine does not prevent infection or spread,( which everyone does understand really in the back of their mind, hence the vitriol being directed at those who won’t take the shot for love nor money, proving that they do understand that the shot has not actually protected them,) then the commitment might be restored. But that horse has probably bolted by now.
    It might be some reassurance that out of getting on for a couple of thousand cases in this out brake that there have only been 2 fatalities; one a lady in her mid 90’s with other age related health conditions and the other in his 50’s also with other serious health problems. Either may well have been taken out by some other virus at another time as far as I can see. I do not expect this pattern of the kind of toll to change. Lets hope though that our reporting does not begin to confuse deaths by covid with deaths by vaccine as seems to be happening in the US.
    D J S

  18. How about she run for Auckland Mayor next year instead?
    Handover the reigns to Anaru Little now and be done with it.
    Auckland is a natural fit. It’s her tribe and she could then save Labour’s arse in 2023 if she wins the Mayoralty!?

    • I’d agree Denny except for one thing: Endrew isn’t Krismetuk enough at the moment. He doesn’t pull ponytails, or even appear on the ‘Panels’ .
      Maybe if there was a short course in POLS and COMMS, or POLS and MDIA, or some media trainer that could rapidly school him in the dark arts of spin and torking in clitches in this space, he’d be a good option.
      Perhaps Bert has some advice going forward in this space, OR several others.

  19. No country has managed the pandemic perfectly – all were unprepared or less than competent in some respect and we were no exception. Here in NZ we had the luxuries of extreme isolation, few initial infections (because of antipodean location our Chinese students were heading home when the outbreak started) and a low population density, so we were best placed to manage it well.
    So where did our failures occur?
    > Our quarantines were leaky and poorly run. Despite that we still dodged several bullets – near misses that turned out negative. Port workers not vaccinated and gang members escaping. Lady Luck was on our side, but not forever.
    > The MIQ booking system remains a total disgrace. It is an example of shocking indiscipline when desperate kiwis can’t get home but there are places for sports teams, the Green hypocrites going to Glasgow and of course, The Wiggles.
    > But the BIGGEST failure by far was the slack implementation of the vaccination program. We could have completed this months ago and quotes from ministers like “It’s not a race” certainly didn’t help. I still have a photo of a leaflet saying “New Zealand is in the fortunate position of not having to rush the vaccination roll-out because of the huge effort we have made protecting each other”. This didn’t age well!

    As to how all this affects Ardern, only time will tell. Her re-election was based purely on fear of the virus and emotions tend to swing back and forth wildly. Outside of the pandemic, her government’s program has been a wrecking ball of incompetence, racial division and authoritarianism.

    • Add to that NZ waters whilst protecting us were also a breeding ground for covid. The original covid strain influenced by Luxury Cruiseliners as well as seaman arriving on shipping containers with covid. The virus moves/d rapidly and having to adapt to an ever evolving pandemic is no simple task. If it was, the rest of the world would have come up with a solution. They didn’t. Even those countries that got the vaccinations earlier than N.Z. have struggled.
      But hey Jacinda is ultimately responsible and the argument can be made for and against the strategy. What is disappointing is the argument gets lost once personal attacks replace critical thought.
      Your last sentence is a gross misrepresentation of the truth particularly the racial division comment.

      • Oh and I forgot to mention the 700 additional covid trained N.Z. nurses on standby for supporting a large scale outbreak. Proactive governance for a very naive keyboard public.

      • Bert, regarding my last sentence:

        > So you’re saying we actually have all those promised kiwibuild homes?
        > Homelessness was in fact ended “within weeks” promised about 5 years ago?
        > We haven’t got a plan on the table to hand over all the country’s water infrastructure to an unelected tribal elite?
        I could go on, but already I’m bored with you.

        • Andrew you are so droll and thick. Your last sentence was about racism. I could go on but I’ve already given you 30 seconds of my life I’ll never get back.
          Whailoil’s new site awaits you, it’s appropriately called Blubber.

    • Oh and I forgot:

      Two years on and not a single additional ICU bed. There’s not even a project started to add capacity.

      The pathetic excuse the MoH offers is a lack of ICU trained nurses. So tell me again who blocked the immigration of additional nurses? Once this thing gets its claws into the community our hospitals will feel the pressure like never before.

      Overall this gives me the impression the government actually thought elimination was a viable long term strategy. How naïve!

      • Lets not forget we lost a bunch to Aussie because Labour refused to properly pay them or address staffing concerns in meaningful way.

        This govt is better for the right than John Keys govt… Jacindas the real smiling assassin.

  20. Wow – such truth in here, and such partiality. Such a faith in elimination too, but a faith so strangely politically grounded.

    On partiality: We went hard in 2020, but not early. You may recall the absurd schoolyard-style spectre of the PM holding up graphs showing we were comparatively circa one day earlier to lock down on a case count basis than many counties. We were late, if you recall, under pressure of the tourism industry. We copied everyone, and we’ve got a better moat than almost anyone. But no real criticism of those decisions implied. It was all a decent course of action, and far be it for a pleb to criticise harshly on v little info. But “hard and early” was not an unequivocal ‘achievement’. Probably the genuine achievement back then was to galvanize what little ‘social cohesion’ we do have as a nation to maintain elimination for a long while – we needed that time to get ready for now. It was a masterstroke to generate national pride in the way she did, but as Jacinda ought to know, pride comes before the fall.

    On faith in elimination: The rules for our two major phases of lockdown look the same, but are entirely different ‘objects’ in that they relate to different worlds. Because everyone knows this, that’s why they look different on the streets. Establishment and maintenance of elimination made sense in 2020. No longer, or at very least, not for much longer at all.

    Maintaining in the long run no longer made sense with a) decreasing international political will or ability to do so; b) decreasing uncertainty as to the effects of covid (still high, but enabling something of a trade-off analysis – hopefully not to be distastefully actuarial); c) the development of treatment and testing protocols, vaccines, etc, all of which seem to be broadly improving all the time. It might continue to make sense if, and only if, we want to stay behind a wall – to Key’s oh-so-triggeringly-accurate-but-deliberately-inaccurate comments. Not an ideal world, but is ain’t ought, and we don’t control the globe.

    If that was the long run, then maintaining elimination in the near term only made sense as a time to get our s#*t in order on the above stuff – so as to protect the most vulnerable. If not at all clear we – ie our government – used our time wisely on that account. So even if we agree with our PM on her young-motherly low risk appetite, as many do (with some interesting polling emerging on this), we simply have to stop romanticising about her performance on delivery of a viable low risk world.

    Can someone please explain, hand on heart, what they’re talking about if they want to maintain elimination for now? Be great to understand other perspectives better. Hope all in AKL are holding up okay. Thinkin of y’all.

  21. A smug hermit kingdom is the sole guaranteed way to eliminate COVID-19 and its variants in New Zealand. A 95% vaccinated population would still contract, transmit and terrible to say, but die from this virus.
    The only solution is all borders jammed closed to travel, including sports teams, minister and entourage delegations to Glasgow, imported goods and services of any type, shape or colour. All potential sites of leakage into our country.
    Learning to live in Aotearoa without outside encroachment on our South Pacific slice of paradise, it truly would be utopia.
    Unfortunately we are connected to the world, unfortunately COVID-19 and it’s variants will not disappear with time, they may fade but not disappear. It will claim more lives.
    The required isolationism is a tough political sale regardless of what compassion and kindness drives it. We witnessed an attempt in 2020 and a realisation in 2021 that this narrative would not be acceptable to the vast majority of the population

  22. Chris, your only looking at early covid success as the measure of Jacinda’s leadership accomplishments. She should resign now for the terrible failures around homeless and child poverty which were her “reasons for been in politics”
    Given all the other failings of this Govt why is it no surprise the covid response is about to be a horrendous disaster as well. It’s not. And blaming the opposition and the media is just bulldust as the buck stops with the PM and she makes all the final decisions.
    The failure of the slow vaccine rollout and excuses for it is going to tear the social fabric of this country, as the virus rips though our most marginalized and vulnerable populations. This is the greatest political failure since WW11.

  23. I’m not convinced by Hooton’s argument, laid out right at the beginning of your article. Yes, if it happens, it happened on Jacinda’s watch, but I personally don’t think the government would be to blame, and neither would most lefties I think. Look around the world. It happened on many politicians watch, but they’re not being held up to blame. Arguably, it was going to happen anyway, and our lot managed to hold it off longer than most, that’s all.

  24. Jacinda could be regarded as a conservative if she could just keep child poverty, inequality, crime and homelessness the same as it was under National, but she can’t even do that.

  25. Didn’t Delta come in via MIQ?? Wasn’t the trans Tasman bubble closed well before the Delta outbreak?? She should go because the vaccination program is late and slow. At 80% double dose NZ should be open for business to all vaccinated, tested tourists.

  26. I can pinpoint the exact moment Jacinda lost control of Auckland. It was when the police too two weeks to file charges against the rich absconders to Queenstown. Others we being arrested and chraged in hours but those two got to choose how it played out. They were given name suppression even before they were legally entitled to it while others were thrown in jail until court. The moment they showed there were two systems in place depending on how you were “connected” people thought “Fuck it” why am i suffering when rich people get treated differently. That was the moment Jacinda (yes i know they will argue it was the police but perception is everything) proved it was us against them (like it has always been)and the team of 5 million became a joke and disintegrated.

    • Kim
      Totally agree and I repeat my point from earlier: Lax approach to law and order is main reason for the whole thing falling apart. No real respect for govt orders. There is no consequence to misbehavior. The firm message from govt should have been: “Don’t fuck with our plan, don’t fuck with our orders. Or else”. There is no ‘Or else’ any more.

      • Then these rule/law-breakers will scream about their freedoms being curtailed by a government they dislike/hate. Get real TK, with types like that and their ‘encouragers’ around, they cannot win.

        • They could and should have thrown the full weight of the law at these two. They put the whole south island at risk and they did it with such a “fuck you i’m rich” attitude that nothing other than the maximum consequences were called for. One of them at least committed fraud by misrepresenting their exemption to get out of Auckland and one was a lawyer for fucks sake.
          At a time when people were looking for an example to be made they wimped out. But worse than that they rook two weeks to do it. By then people had spent that time fuming that thier livelihoods were being destroyed while the connected played the rest of us as fools.
          I have always stuck to the rules and have always ensured that my children did the same but this reall hurt my faith in the “so called” team of 5 million. More like team of 4999000 and the other team of 1000

    • It was lost well before the Wanaka two.

      We look at the headlines and demand instant action. Instant gallows or firing squads.
      The way things work with police and lawyers and people’s rights and resources and particular, specific circumstances, things take time. Every single case and situation is different.

      ‘The moment’ was lost when people’s emotions and prejudices started to get in the way and rationality was chucked out the window. We get it all the time with “well known sportsman gets diversion” phenomenon. “Unfair! special treatment!” are the screams. When unreported, numerous others through the country in the same circumstance have been treated exactly the same.

  27. If the Government (aka Jacinda from announcements) wishes to be safe for the 2023 elections they need to do the following
    – Reduce poverty, especially child poverty in a meaningful way (no more hui/working groups)
    – Housing affordability for low income Kiwis (rent controls, Government backed mortgages)
    – Cannabis law reform
    – Electricity price controls
    Covid 19 has allowed the Government to go to sleep on the above needs…by 2023 elections Kiwis will judge the Government on their progress – not announcements

    • NK
      Ticking off your pretty good list, and then looking at their track record, Labour have already lost the election – according to your logic. And it’s for such exact reasons you list that they should lose it, not for the covid thing. No other govt would have done much better with an unknown quantity like covid. But all the other known stuff? Disastrous! Big election promises to hoover in the votes, plus now even more unpleasant and ill-conceived ‘sneak-in’ policies, all of them announced with huge fanfare and massive confidence: WE CAN DO THIS! They can’t.

  28. I think this a bit overcooked.

    The government pivoted to a middle way approach…and on the face of it it’s a bit confused and ugly. But if you dig in what are the real changes…picnics in Auckland? Actually seems like a wee sleight of hand in messaging to keep the city in level 3 longer than they would have otherwise managed. Yeah there have been assholes like Tamaki and the Gangs running a bit of public interference. The police have managed these at arms length and have ensured we don’t have any Australian type riots that destiny church are aiming for.

    Wow. Sudden vacillating hysteria in the major media outlets, as they have been caught out again pushing the barrow for business right over the top of the public mood. That same media now scramble to reverse positions. It’s absurd. They’ll be begging to promote Super Saturday now.

    It will be interesting to see what happens to case numbers. Compliance has been waning generally. You get the feeling that an increasing number of cases have been linked to naughty, not just unlucky. Hard to know what can be feasibly done about that.

    Maybe things will turn to custard. But honestly, I reckon we still have a bit residual goodwill and some levers to pull and we can get through ok. Best wishes to all.

  29. “At what point did Jacinda’s extraordinary saga of Covid success suddenly pivot towards failure?”

    Chris Trotter

     All politics is pressure

    Hi Chris, In answer to your question, there may be no exact point in the PM’s extraordinary saga, where she pivoted towards failure, mainly because it was a continuum of relentless pressure and micro agressions from the Right against her and her elimination strategy, right from the very beginning. But I think I can provide, very much near enough the point, where the PM finally relented and gave in to that pressure.

    On August 30, 2021, The Prime MInister said; “In order for Auckland to move down a level, the country must be confident Delta is not circulating undetected in the community”

    On Sept. 20, 2021, The Prime Minister announced, “Auckland will move to Alert Level 3 at 11.59pm Tuesday 21st of September”. This was despite 6 new cases being found in the community, 2 of which had no known links, or chain of transmission to any known cluster, which was proof that covid ‘was’ circulating undetected in the community.

    Sometime between these two dates, the Prime Minister became convinced that the Auckland Level 4 Lockdown should be lowered whether covid was circulating in the community undetected, or not.

    Two unlinked chains of transmission, is not too bad, and could have been squelched. We were so near. But so far.

    • I think it would be instructive to find out what lobbyists had access to the PM’s office between the dates of August 30, and September 20, to lead her to make such a U turn between those dates.

    • Yes, the source of the outbreak is the red herring. It was the decision to go down to Level 3 that was the end of elimination.

      The government had not planned well for this (lack of rapid result essential workplace testing), and this made closing the outbreak down more difficult – so it may have required two months at Level 4.

      Worth it (vaccination completes and we have another Level 1 summer and then open up next year with home testing kits and anti-viral treatments about), so why didn’t they?

      For mine, the reason is that they had been pressured into coming forth with a plan for opening up. That includes home isolation and greater risk of spread – beginning with the business worker home isolation trial.
      The thinking would have been how can we justify a two month effort to eliminate and then allow that business worker home isolation trial that might result in a new outbreak. The dichotomy between the two policies would have been too big.

      The right and the media enablers in pressing for “certainty” some plan of action – have led us to this mess.
      For some on the right this is/was deliberate – of an attempt to undermine elimination and realise their own programme. If the government gets blamed for the endemic consequences, then in their eyes well and good.

      Unfortunately we have Little in health, charmless on medicinal marijuana failure and excuses for lack of ICU capacity (there were many ICU nurses looking to escape to Enzed).

    • Agreed, it was obvious the moment Auckland left level 4 that the war was probably lost.
      At that time the outbreak was proving to have a long tail but neither was it at all clear that the hard lock-down had either failed, nor succeeded enough, to warrant easing of restrictions.

      The Government blinked too soon. Just why it did is a question needing an answer.

  30. I was so proud of our resolve for elimination and I’m super disappointed Jacinda caved when the going got tough. Now we’re going to be Australia, unless she hardens up and sticks to the science.

  31. The messaging from Day 1 of the Covid threat in NZ has been pretty bloody simple.
    *Act as if you and everyone you meet has Covid.*
    Not difficult, eh? A flipping child can understand this.
    Nice, monosyllabic phrases like “wash your hands”, “use the App”, “wear a mask”, the Covid Lady has interspersed our television and radio broadcasts and social media with on the regular.

    The fact that a small number of selfish, entitled, ignorant or apathetic individuals couldn’t wrap their heads/egos around this I don’t see as Jacinda’s fault.
    Jacinda didn’t spread Covid.
    We did.

  32. During the earlier February/Valentine’s outbreak this year, people claimed that Ardern was the type that could not admit being wrong and demanded that she apologise to a KFC worker. She didn’t.

    A month before the current outbreak, there were calls for another apology from Ardern, this time because the Australian-obsessed amongst us had heard Scott Morrison say “I’m sorry” for their slow vaccine rollout. Again, Ardern didn’t.

    Now, in Hooton’s wet dream, Ardern is transformed into a suddenly contrite quitter?

  33. Your penultimate paragraph poses all the right questions to the right people, CT.
    I suggest their answers will, inevitably, be obtuse prevarication. Nothing new there.
    I have much admiration for our PM. I have none for those who wish her gone.
    But I would not blame her at all if she – in her own more polite words – said “stuff you lot, I’m off!”.
    And left politics, left the ugly, self-centred lobby and business groups, left the self-righteous, critical right-wing media, left the hypocritical, unChristian church leaders …. and got married; had time to really enjoy parenthood, and life itself – free from the unyielding, incessant demands of her Office.
    It would be a very sad day indeed.
    But those who wish otherwise, be careful, very careful what you wish for. If it ever comes to pass you will not then be able to turn back the clock.


    • It’ll have been a long 6 years, managing first Peters and then a pandemic – one wonders what she thinks there is to achieve in fighting for a third term to stay around for more?

      • Might be right there especially if Winston makes a comeback, barring a miracle we’re in for a hellva ride we still dont have some of the most effective treatments here… Monoclonal antibodies for example its likely to get ugly.

  34. ” John Key’s claim that if we had paid more we would have got them sooner if we had been prepared to pay more ”

    How many shares does the Key ” Waitemata trust ” have in pharmaceuticals namely Pfizer.

    Follow the money because a number of individuals have become insanely rich of the back once again of fear and opportunity !!!

  35. It looks like the only questions will be around who gets to lead the next government. Will David Seymour get to be Deputy or PM?

  36. Chris – cant agree with you blaming media and business for the entire situation we now face. It is well known that it was gang affiliates who spread the virus beyond Auckland – to North Hauraki and to the 3 Waikato points of entry. It seems the ‘cat is out of the bag’ for the rest of the country now, but that is nothing to do with media or the business community.

  37. Seriously Chris, if you attempted to be remotely honest your headline should be ‘Oh where oh where to start with the failings’. This Government have, even well before COVID arrived, failed to deliver on anything they promised their core followers! That is factually there for all without Red & Green tinted glasses to see!! Given your seemingly emotional diatribe is about the COVID aspect of the PM’s Leadership let’s keep it simple! After the first Lockdown last year the PM had only two things she needed to do! Move swiftly to build hospital resilience to prepare for what was globally a very obvious future. Secondly through compassionate education get this country on board with rapid vaccination to ensure the population was resiliently prepared to open back up to the world! The PM and her muzzled Caucus did neither! They should respectfully fall on their swords now! Given their overt displays of arrogant self adulation on TV at the moment that won’t be happening anytime soon!! For you to blame frankly what is the most gutless and shallow media this awesome country has ever endured let alone the limp self destructive opposition is a joke! It’s very clear our Leader is like your Labrador and you are struggling with the fact she has failed in every respect!

    • What a load of diatribe, they have achieved so much but being hard right I wouldn’t expect any less from you.

    • You sound like you know everything Neil. Tell us how Collins/Seymour would have done better. Better than the best covid response in the world. You are alive today and whinging like a baby only because of this PM, Labour and Dr Ash and his team. Collins/Seymour would have opened up or more likely just stayed open and ignored it and we would have a proper disaster. You would probably be dead.

  38. Your problem, should you choose to admit it, Mr Kraut, is that you think ‘The Right’ is you. You are labouring under a misapprehension. You might have right wing views, but right wing politicians are not on *your side, no matter what your views are. Thé are on THEIR side. Nobody else’s. Collins and the Twerker just want power. They don’t care how they get it. If thousands die, but they get into power, they will love it. And that’s why I’m a socialist, because I want a government that cares about its people not just about their greedy selves. And all right wing governments I have ever looked at are just that.

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