NZPA on Politics 2009

sums up the year:

The recession hit New Zealand, unemployment increased, the budget was bleak and John Key walked on water.

It would have been a brave prediction, this time last year, that the Government would end 2009 with more voters backing it than the 44.9 per cent who put it into power last November.

That was a bad election to win. Economic forecasts were catastrophic, revenue was plunging, companies were closing and the buck stopped in the Beehive.

Key had never been there before, he had no experience as a minister and not much as leader of the opposition.

It was soon apparent he didn’t need it, which put paid to beliefs that decades on the benches were an essential part of a leader’s CV.

The poll ratings have been exceptional is even the best of times. To maintain them all year during the global recession and credit crisis has defied expectations.

Domestic issues started to exercise Key’s mind. Richard Worth resigned as a minister and then quit Parliament after a scandal involving two women. The Government’s relationship with the Maori Party hit some bumps, the blighted Foreshore and Seabed Act was reviewed and is heading for repeal as Attorney-General Chris Finlayson seeks an alternative, Education Minister Anne Tolley struggled with difficult policies and Rodney Hide set about restructuring Auckland’s local government structure.

Simon Power began reforming the justice system, Judith `Crusher’ Collins took on organised crime and boy racers, Steven Joyce started building roads and Phil Heatley was fixing state house slums. Tony Ryall changed health administration with hardly a murmur of protest and managed to get hospitals to lift their game. Swine flu came and went,

Gerry Brownlee redesigned the electricity market and started looking for gold in national parks, Nick Smith wrote the emissions trading scheme bill, which hardly anyone understood, and managed to look good when he raised ACC levies because the hikes weren’t as bad as he had said they could be. Labour saw through that but no one took much notice.

Tim Groser toiled quietly on free trade agreements, Finlayson signed Treaty settlements, John Carter’s civil defence systems didn’t come out of the tsunami scare with anything to boast about and Maurice Williamson mulled over the H in W(h)anganui.

Not a bad summary.

At year end, Treasury delivered a slightly improved economic scenario, but the Government didn’t loosen its tight rein on spending. Budget 2010 will be every bit as hard as this year’s was and if Key can maintain National’s support in the 50 per cent range he will be well set for a second term in 2011.

National won this election on 45%.

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