So that's a wrap for 2019: the "year of delivery" for the Labour/NZ First coalition. How much actually got delivered and what key issues are left to focus on in 2020?
Jacinda Ardern certainly delivered leadership in some very dark times and shone on the international stage. But what about policy changes that could actually fix our biggest problems?
There is no doubt that 2019 was a busy year for both the Government and Opposition, but that doesn't translate into progress. Some of this Government's work has been well thought through, but some resembled being busy for the sake of it. Just take a look at the Public Service reforms, or the "ban" on foreign donations that turned out to leave many loopholes.
What have been the substantial achievements and disappointments? And what state is the playing field in for 2020? Let's start with the positive stuff.
The biggest achievement of the year has to be the proposed freshwater reforms. Minister David Parker has become this Government's Steven Joyce, quietly toiling behind the scenes and delivering on the meaty issues.
Much of the focus has lain on tackling climate change and reducing emissions, particularly agricultural emissions. The Zero Carbon Act is no doubt a step forward, providing a plan to deliver the zero carbon goal. However, this Government has made little meaningful progress on actually reducing emissions. The only thing it can agree on is planting trees.
The impact of the freshwater proposals — if adopted — would swamp any other environmental changes.
They would prompt the biggest shift in land use since Roger Douglas removed all subsidies in 1984. The big challenge is implementation, the details of which are still fairly murky.
There have been many other small steps forward. For example, there have been positive moves to reduce waste, though frustratingly slow and piecemeal given the size of the challenges involved. And of course, the year of delivery ended on a high with a promise to bolster infrastructure spending. But the devil is in the detail and the big question remaining is whether this Government will honour its promise to take the politics out of infrastructure, or whether it will follow the lead of National's Roads of National Significance.
The Government backing down on the Capital Gains Tax has to top the table here. This was the flagship policy of the Labour/Green campaign in 2017. NZ First claimed to kill it, but the more likely explanation was that it died a death from a thousand cuts. The moment the "family home" exemption was decreed, the policy was doomed to be frustratingly complex and deliver little change.
A close second has to be KiwiBuild. This policy was ill conceived and doomed to fail. Labour's weak response was that it would rather do something than nothing. At the very least, it was forced to confront the problems with our tax and planning systems, which it plans to get around with an Urban Development Bill.
Shame we don't all have the power to do that.
The final disappointment is simply the lack of clarity on so many other issues. Many education reforms lack crucial details. And immigration has been an absolute mess.
The big issues for election year
So what will be the key battlegrounds for 2020?
Electoral donations, trust, and accountability are likely to feature strongly. NZ First's situation appears to be terminal on this count, but Winston has proved many wrong before.
The Government will probably do enough to satiate the demands of most voters on health, education, and the environment. Only those who realise the full scale of the challenge we face on climate change will be motivated to vote on this issue alone.
No doubt National will push its line on the economy and cost of living. However, the main drain on people's pockets is the cost of housing and National's record offers little to crow about on that front.
Given that the Government's two greatest disappointments stem from our overinflated property market, this is likely to be the most open ground for 2020. Kiwis are sick of politicians' failure to deliver. I predict this'll be where the public will be most open to new ideas.
• Geoff Simmons is leader of The Opportunities Party.