The Government - whether that's Jacinda Ardern's "Labour-led" one, Winston Peters' "Coalition" one, a Green-tinged one, or any other label for that matter - clearly needs a win.

There is no doubt it has hit some serious speed bumps in the past few weeks and is looking wobbly.

It's hardly surprising. A year in, the honeymoon period is well and truly over, there are great expectations to meet, relentless demands from many quarters, competing interests to negotiate, and a large, strong Opposition ready to hold the Government to account for any failings - as it should.

And those failings are mounting.


The issues around Clare Curran and Meka Whaitiri have dented Labour's credibility, and there is potential for further damage.

Labour has been stymied in the progress of its flagship employment law reform legislation and plans to establish a Crown-Maori relations agency - and has been made to look foolish to boot.

The unwanted headlines are now about a Deputy PM gone "rogue", an absent PM, the tail wagging the dog and a Government in chaos and disunity.

It certainly doesn't look good, but is it really that bad?

The country - and the Government - is still getting used to living under and working in a coalition environment. It was delivered under a supposedly more representative MMP system, but which has more often than not brought results more akin to those of the FPP system we ditched more than 20 years ago.

The positives about a coalition government are, arguably, that it represents the majority of voters, that is represents a wider spectrum of New Zealanders and that its members can act as something of a handbrake, countering any extremes.

The negatives are that there are more interests to negotiate, egos to manage and more time required to reach compromises. It was never going to be easy, but New Zealanders were at least promised the three parties were focused on "strong and stable" leadership.

That is why the problems are serious. The negotiations are no longer taking place behind closed doors, who is calling the shots is unclear and the disunity is plain to see - despite "relentlessly positive" press conferences designed to show the opposite.


Some may buy the spin (let's call it what it is), and supporters may forgive the lack of progress. Good things take time, after all. Three years is a very short political term. As long as the groundwork is being laid, that may satisfy many - and gain the Government a second term. But the Coalition's overall majority is slim, and, as more mistakes are made, the number of detractors may grow, galvanising voters against it.

It's not at crisis level yet - at least not when one compares the governments of our friends across the Tasman, in the UK and the US. But that's no cause for complacency.

It may be too much to ask to feel the love, but New Zealanders need to feel secure, see evidence of cohesion, and to know our Prime Minister is not one in name only. To silence its critics and reduce the feeling of unease, the Coalition needs to start translating its slick presentations, grand visions and inclusive rhetoric into meaningful actions with concrete results.