There were concerning signs this week that the ever-optimistic Prime Minister John Key is preparing for the End Times.
Key seems to have cast himself in the role of Noah and is hellbent on turning New Zealand into an ark. Admittedly, his ark is rather like a semi-retired person's boat building project. It sits in the shed and every now and then he goes out and caulks a plank.
But the panda acquisition project is not the first time he has gone looking for stock. In 2013, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka, it was Key who accepted the offer that resulted in the delivery of Anjalee the elephant to Auckland Zoo earlier this year.
Panda diplomacy has been a more prolonged exercise - and one which is yet to bear fruit. Key may well bend Chinese President Xi Jinping's ear about it yet again next week while in New York for the UN General Assembly. It would certainly be less awkward talking about pandas with President Xi than talking about pigs with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Ever the dealer, he has proposed trying to get a cut-price deal by flicking a few kiwis China's way in return for a panda discount. He has even come up with names for them already - including "Bing Bing", which some may recall is Key's nickname for his wife Bronagh. What he does not seem to realise is that Bing means "disease" in Mandarin.
Filling his ark does come with a cost. For some reason, the animals Key chooses for his ark never come from peace-loving countries which respect human rights. They come from countries New Zealand more often accepts refugees from than animals. He has never called for Sweden to send over its fungus gnat, or even a humble moose from Canada to replenish Fiordland. Expect him to lobby for a Syrian Tsolov's mouse-like hamster any day now. As a result, Key often finds himself being accused of soft-peddling in his stance on human rights for the sake of securing an animal. He got it in Sri Lanka. He got it in China. But Key possibly sees the panda -- which comes frocked out in New Zealand's national colours -- as a backup plan if his drive to change the flag fails.
In that respect, it is also becoming increasingly clear New Zealanders can expect a rather spartan gruel and dry bread regime under Labour's Andrew Little. Little's attitude to the suggestion of bears from China was similar to his attitude toward property investors from China. They are ursa non grata.
The reason was the same as he gave for the flag policy, although at least Labour does not have a pre-existing panda policy to come back to bite it. It was that there were better things to do with $250,000 than spend it on bamboo for bears.
Admittedly, Key's stance is rather contradictory. Not long ago National was berating councils for stinging the ratepayer to pay for frills and furbelows rather than sticking to core services. Pandas are not exactly a core service. But Little is at risk of being deemed to be a bit of a bore with his griping about the flag and then the panda in hot succession.
He is also setting himself a very high bar to meet in terms of spending taxpayers' money, should he ascend to the job. Every initiative will be weighed up on the "Panda versus Higher Priorities" scale to see where it fits.
Such has been Little's obstinacy on the flag that the Green Party yesterday successfully stole thunder that was Labour's for the taking in getting Red Peak on to the ballot paper. It came after an unedifying week in which Labour had refused to do so.
After a show of harmony on Tuesday in which the Green Party and Labour colluded to try to attack John Key by asking six identical questions, the Green Party broke ranks. It said it would put up the bill to include Red Peak, but the deciding factor was its agreement not to support any attempt by Labour to change the referendum process in any other way. Little continued to insist the process was a sham and that his stance was "principled". It was also useless.
Key's subsequent agreement to pick up the Green Party bill as a Government bill was likely motivated by the pure fun of flicking mud in Labour's eye for its obstinacy on the issue. If there is one thing Labour hates more than National getting credit for something, it is the Greens getting credit for something.