Jacinda Ardern’s decision to take a walk down the steps of Parliament on Monday was well intentioned, but is symbolic of the Government’s confusion around managing an economy.
In what may be a first, the prime minister personally went to greet representatives of Greenpeace and receive a petition calling for the end of oil exploration.
Few seriously doubt that oil and gas is a sunset industry. But there still is genuine debate about whether New Zealand has the gas reserves in operational fields to manage the transition away from fossil fuels.
Much of New Zealand’s industry relies on gas, as does the electricity sector. Most of our electricity generation is renewable, but it is gas that gives the system security.
Few would rather see their granny sitting in the cold than burn gas if parts of the transmission network fell over.
Slogans are easy. Having a balanced secure supply of electricity is less easy.
Unlike the other controversies of recent weeks, where Ardern has been justifying the positions of her colleagues, this was a storm entirely of her own making.
The prime minister, who labelled climate change as her generation’s nuclear free moment, is now in an almost impossible position, for little political gain.
She has to either call a permanent end to oil exploration in New Zealand, whether the economy is ready or not, or face accusations of hypocrisy.
Or she’ll set up a committee!
For the industry this creates major uncertainty, the significance of which Labour seems to struggle to appreciate.
Businesses, by and large, are better at coping with bad news than they are at coping with uncertainty. You cannot plan for it or adapt to it.
This is why the UK economy is now starting to flatten – the uncertainty.