The National-led Government appears to have lost its way.

It seems to me that Prime Minister John Key's intricate and inclusive coalition arrangement, rather than ensuring National's re-election next year, is shaping up to generate its return to political oblivion.

At the time the coalition was formed I was warm in my praise of it, but now I'm beginning to wonder whether Mr Key and National, in apparently trying to please as many people as possible, are pleasing nobody.

I'm beginning to wonder, too, at the direction - if any - the Government is taking New Zealand.

For those of us who became used, in nine years of Helen Clark-led rule, to a firm hand at the helm and a clear (if often misguided) way ahead, it is perhaps disconcerting to watch the stop-start, one step forward, two steps back activities of Mr Key and his ministers.

For instance, one minute we are told by Gerry Brownlee, the Minister for Economic Development and Minister of Energy and Resources, that national parks are to be opened up for development, the next minute Mr Key takes a couple of steps back and hints the proposal could be watered down.

I have absolutely no problem with opening up our so-called conservation estate - a term that generally describes land that is useless for anything else - for mining of valuable and marketable minerals.

After all, the Department of Conservation administers some 50,000sq km of land from the top to the bottom of the country, or about 20 per cent of our total land area.

Some parts of it are, of course, priceless if not sacred, but that still leaves thousands of square kilometres which could, and should, be exploited for the benefit of all and not just an outdoors elite.

Underneath parts of it are billions of tonnes of marketable materials which could generate billions of dollars in export income. In Otago and Southland alone there are an estimated 15 billion tonnes of lignite worth, at today's prices, about $500 billion.

And, according to mining industry experts, by setting up industries to convert lignite into higher-value products such as vehicle fuels, fertilisers or other chemicals the value of the brown coal could be increased 10 times over, not just in exports but in providing stuff that we now have to import, and creating homegrown jobs to boot.

Naturally, opponents of the scheme - Greens, sundry other tree-huggers, bird-watchers, bug-lovers and whale savers - are up in arms.

But their contention the Government is back-pedalling after realising the idea is "hugely unpopular" is nonsense: nine out of 10 New Zealanders would far rather the riches of the conservation estate were harvested to provide a real boost to this tiny nation's economy.

Then there's the kerfuffle over a review of the SuperGold card after the suggestion by Transport Minister Stephen Joyce that it's free travel entitlement is costing too much.

As one of the half a million or so elderly Kiwis who hold such a card, I was naturally concerned that my peers, though at this stage not my wife and I, might be disadvantaged.

The only time I had the chance to save myself some money I blew it. I flew to Auckland and climbed on a bus to the city. The bus driver mumbled something about a card but, my ears and hearing aids still adapting to sea level after the flight, I couldn't pick up what he was saying.

I offered my money and he took it and it was only later that day when an elderly friend mentioned the SuperGold card free travel facility that I realised I could have saved myself $16. About the only other time I use it is when I avail myself of the SuperGold discount at the Mad Butcher.

However, this week Mr Key felt it necessary to say the free travel was not under threat, although he qualified that by saying that it would "be my expectation" the free travel provision would survive next year's election.

Pussyfooting again. It has always been difficult to get a straight answer from a politician, but the utterances of Mr Key and some of his offsiders give political dissembling a whole new meaning.

Then there's the suggestion of an increase in GST, apparently to be offset by lower income taxes and, thank God, an increase in pensions.

This, it is said, is to be "revenue neutral", which makes me wonder why the Government would bother with it considering the widespread opposition to it.

How taking our money out of one pocket and putting it in the other advances fairness in the tax system is far beyond me, and is simply further evidence of a government that seems to be stumbling and fumbling about, trying to find answers when it doesn't even seem to know the questions.

Dipping toes into the political waters to test the heat is no way to govern. We need vision and decision.