The past week has been one of mixed success for the new Opposition and Government.

While Jacinda Ardern's Government was swamped with briefings from officials and media interviews on plans ahead, Bill English's National team has been downsizing its offices and allocating shadow portfolios.

As he put it, the National Opposition has pressed the "Go" button on holding the Government to account, which is a nice way of sounding active when you've been unpacking boxes most of the week.

But the carefully staged event to announce the reshuffle rammed home National's new reality.


After English's 34-minute press conference in the stately Legislative Council Chamber he got all of three seconds on the two six o'clock television news channels that night.

And one of those clips made English sound as though he was being a bitter loser - pouring scorn on Ardern's Government after one week.

But it was a reshuffle to give National a strong enough start in Opposition with the retention of key former ministers in key portfolios but enough change to spice it up.

Judith Collins' rehabilitation is complete after the reshuffle, going from No15 in English's former ministry to No9 in Opposition - a promotion which will literally return her to the front bench of the debating chamber.

In a small way it is a recognition that she behaved impeccably after returning to Cabinet and did nothing to undermine or embarrass Key or English.

But more importantly, it recognises that as aggressive attack politician, and a woman, her value to the party has risen immensely.

Collins may be able to attack Ardern in a way that English can't do without appearing bitter or bullying.

Collins, Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have also each been assigned one of Ardern's colonels to mark: Collins to mark Phil Twyford on Transport, Bridges to mark David Parker on Economic Development, and Adams to mark Andrew Little on Justice.

Each of the National attack dogs will be auditioning as a potential leader for a day on which English could quit, although there is no sign of it from him and no sign of agitation for it from others.

Ardern's relationship with voters will be hard to come between if she continues as she has started.

But denting the credibility of any of those senior ministers would be a major achievement for an Opposition.

They may prove to be harder target than some others.

And this week has been less than tidy for a couple of ministers.

Stuart Nash in Police appeared not to initially see the incongruity between fulfilling the New Zealand First-Labour Coalition agreement to hire 1500 new sworn officers and recruiting those same cops as new immigrants from overseas.

That policy lasted a day.

And Health Minister David Clark decided he would think about requiring all DHB chairs to submit a letter of resignation which he would reject if they were on the same wave length as the Government.

Better to just sack the ones he thinks aren't up to it, and not just think about it.

New Zealand First has been avoiding such pratfalls. Bridges and Adams have also been given new areas of particular vulnerability for the Labour-led government, workplace relations and safety for Adams and immigration for Bridges.

English touched on them during the press conference, citing the declining confidence in the business community through uncertainty around industrial relations and pay equity laws, and the worrying effects that slashing export education could have on regional education institutions, let alone metropolitan ones.

English had flashes of brilliance in his performance, a reminder that he can be a devastating debater when he is energised.

National's best performance of the week came in the form of a Statistics NZ release on Thursday, the last set of employment figures based in National's term of Government.

They included a further fall in unemployment to 4.6 per cent and 54,000 new jobs created in the September quarter - a set of figures and positive trends against which the new Labour-led government can be readily compared.

There will be some National policies from which Labour naturally benefits, such as the large housing programme under way in Auckland.

Anything coming on stream in the next two years will be from that.

Labour's housing plan will be years away from being able to be measured or to be "held to account" as National says it will do.

There will be some policies on which National's own record should encourage it to remain silent, such as mental health.

It has no credibility in scoffing at Labour reviving the Mental Health Commission when it left its own work on mental health until just before the election campaign.

With an active new Government, National is going to find it hard to get any air time so when it does, it has to count - not like Steven Joyce's reaction to Tuesday's news that Labour had found a way to implement its ban on selling houses to offshore investors.

Joyce's position was to complain about the lack of detail and to essentially take the side of the foreign investor in opposing a popular move.

National has survived the election with a formidable army intact.

It just needs to pick its battles.