As we say goodbye to 2020 and welcome in 2021, it's a good time to catch up on the very best of the Herald columnists we enjoyed reading over the last 12 months. From politics to sport, from business to entertainment and lifestyle, these are the voices and views our audience loved the most. Today it's the top three from Kate MacNamara
Why the extra lockdown wasn't worth it
This is a pandemic that has told a thousand cautionary tales. But in our great attention to risk and to its mitigating, we must make room for tales about an abundance of caution. They too are cautionary.
This one opens with a 4pm press conference hosted by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. It was April 20 and New Zealand had endured close to four weeks in one of the world's most stringent lockdowns to contain the spread of Covid-19 (and ultimately eliminate it within the broader community).
Hard lockdown, Ardern told the country, would run into overtime. Cabinet had decided to add five additional days before moving to the looser rules of level 3.
Ardern couched the decision in terms of great benefit at little cost.
Thorny issues for NZ's new Trade Minister
There's a new face poring over New Zealand's portfolio of trade prospects, but in many ways Damien O'Connor is an old hand.
New Zealand's new Minister for Trade will need that experience to secure any of the new markets the country's exporters are eyeing.
Exporters retain somewhat dim hopes that under the presidency of Joe Biden, the US will join Pacific countries, including New Zealand, in the CPTPP free-trade agreement. The US helped negotiate its predecessor, the TPP, under President Barack Obama, when Biden was Vice-President, but President Donald Trump subsequently withdrew from the deal before ratification.
Why the wage subsidy was so broad and who should give it back
There are many words to describe New Zealand's autumn Covid-19 lockdown and the Government wage subsidy that helped much of the country through it: "windfall" isn't one of them. But that hasn't stopped the calls for cash-rich companies to give the money back.
Perhaps the Government could claw back the funds in a special tax. Or maybe the companies themselves, those that are posting profits in year-end results and paying dividends to shareholders, could take the high road and return it.
Companies weren't worming through a loophole in hanging on to the subsidy cash. It was offered from March, midwifed by panic and accompanied by an eerily effective halt to economic activity.