Nicola Willis has taken on National's finance portfolio at the time of great economic flux.
The Government and Reserve Bank are transitioning away from emergency economic management. The speed of this transition is uncertain. It's also unclear what the Government is transitioning towards - a "new normal"? No one, not the Government, nor the Opposition has been able to articulate precisely what that is (or who pays for it).
The economic response to Covid-19 is often grouped together with the health response: "a strong public health response is still the best economic response", or so it goes.
That's undoubtedly true, but what gets less attention is the extent to which the economic response sustained the health response.
For the first year of the pandemic, the health response didn't really exist beyond policy advice. Hospitals were empty because the economic response allowed the Government to switch the country off to crush the virus (where the health response did exist, like ordering PPE and scaling-up testing, it was patchy at best).
The relationship between the two has continued, and deepened. There's now a vicious cycle in the levels of business support offered by the Government.
Ongoing strict Covid rules require greater levels of support to sustain many businesses, but this level of support makes it easier to justify ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. The cycle goes on and on, and the end becomes less and less clear.
The efficacy of lockdowns depended in large part on the ability of the Government to support the economy. Countries with limited fiscal headroom to support households saw people head back outside into the informal economy to make ends meet (and spread the virus).
We did not do this in New Zealand.
People's jobs were safe, thanks to the wage subsidy and the Reserve Bank's monetary support. Thank Ashley Bloomfield for the health advice, sure - but he couldn't have done it without Barfoot & Thompson.
But that's where things became more complicated. Towards the end of the first year of the pandemic, instead of trimming down on monetary support, the Reserve Bank was rolling out new ways of creating cheap money (the FLP, for those who care).
Like economic OxyContin, the Bank's economic support was a cure that became a disease, pumping up house prices by $225,000 since the start of the pandemic.
The Bank was transparent that this wealth creation would support employment by making people feel rich and more likely to spend. It's a form of 21st century noblesse oblige - the poor can't afford houses, but they're meant to be grateful those who can get richer, because that's what keeps them in a job.
As the pandemic changes, the Government will need to assess what levels of economic support make sense.
With the current level of inflation, the Reserve Bank has rightly decided the deflationary and employment threat has receded, and has begun to curtail monetary support (although interest rates remain low).
Likewise the Government will surely begin to withdraw fiscal support as we move down the traffic lights and sectors like international education and tourism open up again.
As a former Housing spokeswoman, she's well aware of the Covid crisis' perverse relationship with the housing crisis.
She'll also almost certainly be prosecuting inflation. It's not clear the extent to which this inflation has been generated domestically, but despite the cause of inflation not being Robertson's fault, it is certainly his responsibility to fix.
Labour will obviously be concerned at the way the Covid pandemic has inflamed the housing crisis, but it should also fear inflation. Stats data shows it hits poorer people hard, people in the bottom income quintile, superannuitants and Māori experienced annual inflation of 5 per cent last year.
Inflation can be popular. The Fourth Labour Government politicised solving inflation and managed, in its first term, to reduce net expenditure from 36 per cent of GDP to 34.8 per cent. It justified the pain of this spending reduction by arguing it would tame inflation (which it did… eventually). That Government enjoyed high polling in its first term, despite keeping a lid on spending, mainly because it promised to keep inflation low.
Inflation appears to be tilting the political centre ground towards National. In November's Taxpayers' Union Curia Poll, only 22.7 per cent of people in moderately deprived areas voted National. By February, that number had increased to 45.2 per cent. National leapfrogged Labour, which enjoyed the support of 38 per cent of moderately deprived voters (it still has a commanding lead amongst the most deprived).
Willis should be able to put a strong fight to Robertson on the issue of monetary policy. The Bank might have gone too far and too hard in its efforts to support the economy, possibly because Labour expanded its mandate to focus on employment and not just price stability.
Where she'll have a challenge is putting forward an alternative. To do so requires leapfrogging Labour and going straight to the Green position: if the Government did more to support the economy, it would mean the Reserve Bank could do less,
On Wednesday, Willis indicated she was unhappy with the level of Reserve Bank monetary support, describing it as "turning the money hose on really hard", but did not give an answer to whether she'd be inclined to sign off another round of money printing if the Reserve Bank asked for it.
Like Luxon, she talks of shifting focus from macroeconomics to microeconomics, which is no bad thing, but it's not clear yet how this turns into policy.
Willis faces a difficult job; the Covid economic support requires robust prosecution, but it also requires a road map of where to go next. Christopher Luxon said on Wednesday that the way forward as business support is withdrawn, is to open up the economy and allow businesses to find their own ways of making revenue, with fewer encumbrances.
A nice idea, but it sounds a like replacing a Labour platitude with a National one.
For more from Thomas Coughlan, follow the NZ Herald's politics podcast, On the Tiles. New episodes out Friday