As much as Kiwis may want a New Year reset, 2023 will likely be dominated here by ongoing bread and butter issues spreading from 2022, but with a couple of scheduled big events on top.
New Zealanders will have to wait and see how economic predictions pan out, but at least summer offers a sun-kissed chance to escape gloomy clouds for a while.
Lying ahead will be a general election and the Rugby World Cup in France.
A lot can happen this far out from the election. At the moment, unless polling trends change, a National/Act government appears to be the most likely scenario.
These are difficult times in which to govern and a lot of countries and governments have struggled.
Labour’s popularity problems date back to the slow vaccine rollout and Delta lockdown of 2021, followed by the double barrel blast of Omicron and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and mixed in with missteps over domestic reforms and messaging.
People’s political views have been influenced, not by the big picture, but by their own pandemic frustrations, and emotional experiences of high costs, falling house prices and difficulties saving money in recent months. Given all that, Boxing Day spending was surprisingly stable.
The polls suggest that National’s tactic of accusing the Government of worsening inflation with too much spending has worked and that enough voters believe National would be better stewards of the economy. That would be a hard perception for Labour to overturn if a shallow recession occurs in 2023.
However, the country’s experience of inflation in 2022 has actually been middle of the road by international standards.
New Zealand’s inflation of 7.2 per cent is close to the US (7.1), Canada (6.9), Australia (6.9) and better than the rates of countries such as the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland and Germany.
The OECD year-on-year inflation rate is 10.7 per cent and it says food inflation was up in 2022 in 33 of 38 countries. New Zealand’s unemployment rate of 3.3 per cent level-pegs with Australia’s (3.4) and is below the OECD’s 4.9 per cent.
Labour will have to up its game in the new year and wrest the narrative back. National will have to maintain its momentum and be disciplined.
Economic problems are likely to continue into 2024 regardless who wins. With globalised influences striking countries’ domestic politics - like conflict, energy, health, climate, inflation, supplies, misinformation - governing is increasingly complex. Three years for a parliamentary term may, in the future, come to be considered too short to get much of substance done.
The other big set piece for 2023 is the Rugby World Cup, and the All Blacks haven’t done enough in 2022 to inspire much optimism.
It wouldn’t surprise to see hosts France go one better with rugby than being beaten finalists in football at Qatar.
That would be a great story with France the only traditional heavyweight - among New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and England - not to win the top prize. Ireland winning at the Stade de France would cement their place as a new heavyweight and also be a popular result.
Unlike New Zealand, England and Wales have decided that the head coach, rather than assistant coaches, is the person to replace when things go wrong. A lot will be on the line in September and October for the New Zealand rugby authorities.
Before then, this country gets to co-host the Fifa women’s football World Cup with Australia in July and August; King Charles is formally crowned in May; Disney celebrates its 100th anniversary and the Sydney Opera House its 50th.
There could also be developments good or bad that might throw expectations off kilter.
These days flying Kiwis thinking of jetting off on OEs need to keep on top of what’s happening elsewhere, including in our wider region, which is popular for New Zealand holidaymakers.
Just this week North Korea sent five drones into the South for the first time in five years, causing Seoul to scramble aircraft in response. North Korea has regularly test-fired missiles towards Japan.
China’s military briefly sent 71 planes and seven ships towards Taiwan for a day over a US defence spending bill that refers to increased security cooperation with the island.
The next year will be full of predictable and unpredictable happenings.