It's that time of year when assessments are made. Fittingly, traditional Santa brings gifts for good behavior, a lump of coal for its opposite.

Overseas, in the United States, Donald J Trump deserves so many coal lumps for his weakening of the American fabric — child separation comes quickly to mind — to gift them would intensify global warming.

Letting one lump stand for all, and his temper tantrum of shutting down the government over a foolish border wall well qualifies.

The presidential Grinch has stolen Christmas from 400,000 government employees. After January 3, the newly empowered Democrats will bring presents of their own to his administration — subpoenas.


Here in Godzone, the first year of this new government has been a mixed one but overall worthy of being on Santa's "good" list.

Our prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, did a fine job representing us in London and in New York.

She created a positive buzz at the United Nations, charmed the press and matched good humour with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show.

Her reception in London — at her first CHOGM — was warm. She came off as composed beyond her obvious youthful age, which served to enhance the standing of our country.

There were no gaffes, no silly selfies, no confusion as to whether she represented Australia or New Zealand. In short, at opportunities for representation she's stood up and done us proud. Her bringing baby Neve helped.

President Donald Trump ... could do better.
President Donald Trump ... could do better.

Aside from the ceremonial, the most deserving quality of this government is its willingness to acknowledge the several important problems we face.

First and foremost is the threat posed by global warming.

In view of the IPCC report giving us 12 years to head off disaster, no government worthy of the name can afford to ignore or refuse to face the threat we're creating to the safety of our common home, the planet.


Unlike the last two governments, National and Labour, this one is beginning to take the crisis seriously.

It's made a small start in curtailing coastal oil exploration but, as the Chinese proverb says, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Some of the long journeys being undertaken on roads previously ignored include the mental health and the criminal justice systems, both in a state of failure.

There are the 270,000 children living in poverty and there is the housing and homelessness problem.

There are no plaudits to be given for accomplishment — and even some signs of hiccups — in housing. But the optimist in me says let's wait and see.

These problems are the product of decades of neglect.

There's some merit in simply admitting to these problems — the hope is that the solutions, when they are proposed, will not be a repeat of importing failed structures from abroad.

Particularly because the work will be lengthy and require our common will, we need to look for solutions fitting for our cultures, our peoples — solutions uniquely derived and built here.

Credit should be given for the government's willingness to engage and trust the judgment of the citizens in the referenda covering recreational cannabis and end of life choices.

While I look forward to informed debate on these issues, I'm aware of a morality brigade which has been willing to be anything but honest on these issues.

What's not so good is the failure of both government and opposition to deal effectively with issues of bullying, which underlies so much of the violence against men and women in our country.

If there are credible accusations of bullying, Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha needs to stand down. Respect for the integrity of our police is on line.

Likewise Simon Bridges needs to act on similar accusations against National MP Maggie Barry. Don't talk about law and order for others until your own house is in order.

All politics is local — and so locally I congratulate our mayor, Hamish McDouall, and members of the Whanganui District Council for maintaining comity even on contentious issues.

Santa says peace is its own reward. That, and getting rid of plastic bags.

*Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.