One year ago tomorrow we elected a new government – one that leant to the left instead of to the right — but in many ways we're still waiting to find out exactly what that means.

See, as good as it may have felt to ride the wave of Jacindamania and give sufficient support to the "change" parties to enable them to form a governing coalition, and as hopeful as we may remain that this has ushered in a new era of social re-balancing, to a large extent the ideas have yet to become actions.

That's partly to do with the logistics of the Parliamentary process: invariably drafting a Bill, going through its consultative, committee, and revision stages, and finally passing it into law can easily eat up a year or more – even with the best will and guaranteed support.

And it's partly due to the convoluted mechanics of having three strong parties in government; everyone wants their particular ideas to shine, but can't progress together unless there's consensus.


That can lead to some uncomfortable niggles and hitches – in practice, mostly emanating from or articulated by Winston Peters.

It's hard to know whether Winnie knows when he's winning. One gets the feeling he'll not be satisfied until he has complete power, not just deputised control. And that's an "internal" irritation the government will have to put up with for however long it stays on top.

But we knew that, didn't we. Just as we knew the Greens would be loyal partners, even if NZ First treats them like streakers at a rugby game: something to chuckle tolerantly at, but be quickly hustled off the stage so the real action can continue.

Importantly, it hasn't stopped the coalition making good progress in starting delivery of key elements of its programme: affordable and social housing, genuine regional development, carbon neutrality and the "billion trees" aspiration; giving a win to each of Labour, NZ First, and the Greens in turn.

But the most recent addition – the creation of an Office of Maori Crown Relations – is a Labour/Green-driven policy that may stick in Winston's craw.

His churlish reaction has already resulted in the word "partnership" being dropped from the agency's title, though it's still used in descriptions of what it will do. Which, broadly, is to design and oversee new models for how Maori and the Crown work together.

And even though the agency's existence intends moving debate beyond "the Treaty industry" on to "post-settlement" ground, in itself this is likely to stir up the racists more than quieten them; anyone mistakenly thinking that Maori, once "paid out", might be quietly ignored will doubtless be bursting blood-vessels already.

However, this coalition has far more going for it than against it, even if it must struggle to keep itself intact as it goes about its business.


And one of the best things going for it is Jacinda Ardern who, by the consummate way she drew the parties together last week for a TEDx-style presentation of where they're heading, continues to show she is nothing short of a wonder woman, baby and all.

Tellingly, she seems to have a knack of being able to put Winston back in his box whenever he threatens to break loose – as getting him publicly onside with a raised refugee quota and the new Maori agency demonstrate.

Crunch time starts now – the second year of the term – because this is when key laws start changing and the substance of their direction becomes clear.

No-one should prejudge the coalition's success or failure until this year is out; but on balance, so far, so good – just.

* Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet. Views expressed are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's.