Finally, the election campaign is under way and those of us who are political junkies can get our triennial fix.
So far, the main effect of level 2/2.5 Covid-19 precautions has been to save us from some of the more unconvincing parts of the democratic ritual, such as glad-handing in pubs, although Judith Collins could not deny herself the baby-kissing bit.
Winston Peters has a ready-made excuse for the lack of adoring elderly crowds. Poor James Shaw has been put through the Green equivalent of a Stalinist show trial; Jacinda's injunction to be kind seems not to have been heard in this instance.
We all hope that the current outbreak is under control, despite some cult covidiocy. Before long we may move to level 1, recognising that more outbreaks could still occur. If we manage to have no serious recurrence, we will have probably achieved what was regarded as well-nigh impossible: undergone a pandemic with a lower death rate than we would have had in its absence.
The lesson, perhaps, is that some of the simpler general precautions taken can be repeated in normal times, especially to keep winter flu outbreaks at a lower level of intensity.
It would also appear that the economic consequences, bad though they have been, are not as bad as originally forecast. That certainly seems to be the consensus of the bank economists, who are probably better placed than most of us to make such judgments (in general, economists are better at predicting the past than the future, though they get paid for the latter).
The real question is where to from here? My instinct is that there is a large proportion of the population who will not be satisfied with going back to the status quo before the pandemic.
The mood is a little like that in Britain in 1945; we haven't been through all that just to go back to 1939. In our version of this desire for a better world, we are already hearing a kind of counterpoint argument: that what we need is a good strong dose of austerity and supposedly "pro-business" policies to get things moving again — what we might label enemanomics.
This seemed to be the hidden message in what might kindly be called a train-wreck of an interview with Paul Goldsmith on Morning Report on Monday. He is all too obviously under instructions not to let the policy cat out of the bag this side of the election.
But he said enough to let us know that what is in his mind was the usual prescription of keeping wages down, reducing workers' rights, and paring away at social spending to make room for tax cuts.
National had already admitted there would be no contributions to the Super Fund, thus piling up unfunded costs for the future. Environmental policies would not be so much pared back as dealt to with the back of an axe.
The fact is that such an approach is a long way from being pro-business. An increasing number of business leaders know this, even if they do not always speak out on it. The low skills, low wage, environmentally unsustainable route to prosperity has long since proved a failure in New Zealand.
Those businesspeople who continue to clutch to their breasts this failed past are suffering from what Karl Marx (not my usual source of inspiration) would have called false consciousness.
New Zealand has the chance to transform itself into a truly sustainable economy. Our products, especially our food products, can be marketed at a premium in any number of countries on that basis. Environmentally aware consumers are the consumers of the future.
A nation with clean rivers, clean air, moving to and beyond carbon neutrality, caring for the glorious country that nature has gifted us, rather than pillaging it like some band of latter-day Vikings, is an economic proposition as well as an ecological one.
In rebuilding some of the worst affected parts of our economy, we need to bear these goals in mind. We could look at designating some parts of the country as lead transformers in that regard. My own region of the Eastern Bay of Plenty would be up for the challenge, I am sure.
To move down that track will require three things: investment, science and partnerships. The Reserve Bank has indicated a willingness to engage in more quantitative easing to boost the economy. Without trampling on its independence, we need that to be for transformation, not regurgitation.
We also need that transformation to be based on the best science and cultural values, not on being stuck with outdated technologies. Finally, we need partnerships with iwi and Māori trusts, with local government, and with willing and progressive businesspeople and union leaders.
- Sir Michael Cullen is a former Labour MP, Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister.