COMMENT: It was Labour's so-called Year of Delivery and its first Wellbeing Budget while National had its own feats.
Herald political editor Audrey Young reveals her politician of the year and the runners up - despite the noteable blunders.
It is always a pleasant start to the year for Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party caucus as they transition from holiday to work.
She has continued a tradition started by Andrew Little to take the team to Martinborough in the Wairarapa for a two-day retreat in January.
This year's one was notable for several reasons, not least because a bee flew into her blouse during a standup with the media outside.
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It was also notable for two blunders. Ardern's first mistake was made during her opening remarks to the MPs at the retreat, with media present.
She didn't have a prepared speech and she and chief press secretary Andrew Campbell put their heads together shortly before the start.
Having copped so much flak in 2018 for it being a year of reviews and task forces Campbell came up with the crisp phrase that 2019 would be The Year of Delivery.
She duly delivered the line and it became instantly mockable. For all the policies that have been delivered there are also the ones that were not part of the manifesto: the year of delivering higher rents, the year of delivering lower growth, the year of deficit, etc.
It is a more effective device for critics than it is for the Government.
That afternoon, Ardern held a press conference with hapless Housing Minister Phil Twyford in which they repeatedly reconfirmed their commitment to the KiwiBuild target of 100,000 houses over 10 years.
It took a further eight months before Twyford's replacement, Megan Woods, scrapped targets altogether, short term and long term. It was a complete surrender and admission of failure.
Both the KiwiBuild promises and Year of Delivery catchphrase epitomise the single biggest weakness of Ardern – a propensity to over-promise and a failure to manage expectation.
Whether it is promising "transformational Government", "the most open and transparent Government" or "the Year of Delivery" she fails to grasp that there is often little difference between a great sound-bite and a superlative that sets yourself up for failure.
It does not disqualify Ardern as contender for Politician of the Year but both those errors will be an enduring weapon for the Opposition in election year.
She made some big decisions, some with little recognition of their importance. Her decision to halt future campaigning for a capital gains tax removed perhaps the biggest potential obstacle to Labour being returned to power next election.
Without that decision, they would have been sitting targets for a fourth election in a row. Sometimes you just have to accept when you have lost the argument.
Ardern's two best ministers have been Chris Hipkins, who knows how to get things done, and Greens co-leader James Shaw who persevered with an inclusive approach to establishing climate change architecture.
New Zealand First's Tracey Martin deserves a special mention for a disarmingly frank approach to her job.
She fronts up to the media and public without an ounce of guile, and attempts to answer every question without flannel.
It is only when you see Martin in action do you realise how rare her approach is among ministerial colleagues.
Act leader David Seymour has had a momentous year, getting his End of Life Choice Bill passed into law, to take effect after a referendum.
Seymour worked collegially in a cross-party group through the debates that were full of pathos on both sides, but mercifully short on histrionics.
He is second runner-up to the Politician of the Year for his massive achievement.
Opposition leader Simon Bridges has had an excellent year. At a time when his MPs could have been getting bitter about being in opposition, he has held them together, got policy under development under way, maintained high support for his party, kept Judith Collins at bay and improved his own communications skills.
The setback of having finance spokeswoman Amy Adams step down turned out to be a minor one with Paul Goldsmith slipping into the role fairly effortlessly.
The fortuitous leak of Budget 2019 through Treasury's own website managed to overshadow the Government's hugely hyped Wellbeing Budget. That was gold for an Opposition.
Bridges is finally getting some of the recognition he deserves for doing a reasonable job – although he should savour the moment; this might be as good it gets for him.
Bridges also led National in small but deliberate steps to bipartisan support for James Shaw's Zero Carbon Bill. For that achievement Bridges and Shaw are equal runners-up to Politician of the Year.
Despite the domestic difficulties, it is impossible to go past Jacinda Ardern as Politician of the Year after the massacre of March 15, not for the comfort she gave the victims' families and the country, although that was very important.
The tragedy had the potential to have spectacularly negative impacts on New Zealand as a country and to fuel prejudice between Muslim and non-Muslims.
New Zealand's international reputation and relationships with the Muslim world including countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkey and much of the Middle East had suddenly been thrown into crisis by one man's murderous rampage against Muslims at prayer in Christchurch.
A protest march against the New Zealand embassy in Jakarta was being planned. There was talk of it being replicated around Muslim capitals.
Turkey called an emergency session of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation to discuss the New Zealand massacre, to which Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Ethnic Communities Minister Jenny Salesa were despatched.
The potential for the Muslim world to use the Christchurch massacre against New Zealand and the West is not really appreciated because within two or three days, the mood had shifted dramatically.
Through Ardern, the world saw the genuine grief that non-Muslim were experiencing as well.
Early pledges to change gun laws and to force greater responsibility by tech giants exemplified firm leadership.
But nothing had the same impact as Ardern reflecting both the anguish and strength of a broken-hearted country.
Most leaders rise to the challenge during a crisis. Others may have managed remarkably well.
But she did it. She helped New Zealand come to terms with what had happened.
She not only rescued New Zealand's reputation internationally, she enhanced it.
She united a world in grief and in the process etched an unforgettable place for herself in it.