It was in the middle of a glorious summer in January that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a shocking prediction: winter is coming.
Lo, winter has duly arrived with all its excess baggage: Omicron, the return of the flu after two years of absence, the good old-fashioned cold.
Hospital admissions are up – more from the flu than Covid – and nurse numbers are down, yet another issue from Covid-19.
Despite the certainty winter would come, some seem surprised by its arrival and are now looking for who to blame for this turn of events.
Ardern's explanations for the influx on emergency departments and nurse shortages have ranged from blaming winter to blaming the former National Government.
She simultaneously blamed the nurse shortage on a global shortage and demand from other countries, and on the John Key National Government for not training more nurses or paying nurses better so there were more around this winter.
National is blaming the current Labour Government's health reforms for taking attention away from people who are actually sick, and blaming Labour's immigration settings during Covid-19 and afterwards for not doing enough to attract nurses to the land of milk and influenza.
"We anticipated this," Ardern said at one point. "We flagged that we anticipated winter would be particularly tough."
The peril there is the obvious follow-up question: If the Government forecast winter would come, how has it come to this? Why wasn't more done to prepare for it?
That question was duly asked. Ardern's response was that the Government had increased eligibility for a free flu vaccine, was working with GPs (yes, there is also a GP shortage) and was trying to share the load around hospitals. It had also provided funding for more nurses (even if, alas, it could not find the nurses). In the years before Covid, about 1.3 million flu vaccines were given each year. So far this year, just over one million flu vaccines have been dispensed, and while the rates for over-65s are high (about two thirds), those for 55 to 64-year-olds are much lower, at just 27 per cent.
Ardern daren't use the Covid-19 settings to try to contend with flu - but has urged people to keep wearing their masks as much to protect from flu as Covid.
The health debate is one Labour can't afford to lose.
According to the polls, in the voters' minds Labour has already lost to National on key metrics of the economy, housing and law and order. Its problems with the cost of living will last longer than one miserable winter.
Labour is still most trusted on health – both a historical perception and because of the largely successful handling of Covid-19.
Pointing out how much worse things could have been last winter if the Government hadn't put so much effort into staying Covid-free will be little solace for those suffering this winter.
So health is the Government's OK Corral – and National knows it. Winter is its best opportunity to fight on that front.
In the past week, the pressure on hospitals, the nursing shortage and delays to elective surgeries were the topics of National leader Christopher Luxon's questions to Ardern, rather than the cost of living.
Beyond proposing an easier immigration route for nurses, National has not yet itself come up with anything solid by way of solutions to the load on the health system. Its sole goal at the moment is to dent confidence in the Government's handling of it.
The Government will need to come up with something a little bit more compelling than "well, we warned you about winter," blaming a government from more than five years ago, and urging people to wear their masks. It has one more summer (and one more winter) to do that.
The new Health NZ structure kicks in from next week and the Government will be hoping that reaps results - but it won't magic up 3000 nurses.
On the good news front, winter may well give the Government a slight reprieve on the law and order front.
New Police Minister Chris Hipkins must feel as if he is something of a spring season himself, having shed the relentless grind of the Covid-19 portfolio to move to Police.
He takes over just as other issues are starting to take over from crime as a hot political issue: the plasterboard shortage and winter ailments chief among them.
It was with a new bounce in his step that Hipkins made his debut appearance as Police Minister in Parliament this week. It may be too soon to say if he is soft or tough on crime, but he was certainly loud on crime, bellowing about the apparent failings of the former National Government to do what it was now calling on Labour to do.
His exchange on Wednesday with National's police spokesman Mark Mitchell turned into something of a pantomime show.
Labour has argued National's ban on gang patches would not work, so Mitchell was asking Hipkins whether he supported the existing ban on patches in hospitals and schools – the result of a members' bill ushered in by one Mark Mitchell. Hipkins said he had no plan to change it, so Mitchell asked if he would extend it. Hipkins said he had no intention to. Mitchell then ran out of questions – and Labour MPs clamoured for the Speaker to give him more. The Speaker did.
Caught short, Mitchell asked the exact same questions again. Hipkins gave the exact same answer.
Mallard made an observation about deja vu and promptly gave Mitchell yet another two questions.
Sitting along from Hipkins was Poto Williams, who finally got her revenge on Mitchell by starting a slow clap.
Whether or not the change to Hipkins will have any impact on crime is unclear.
But it is certainly a lot more entertaining.