Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised a land of plenty and has delivered if by plenty she meant plenty of working groups and reviews.

In the nine months since the Government was formed announcements of working groups and reviews have come thick and fast.

They are all shapes and sizes. Some are big (the tax system, the welfare system and the entire health system) and some small (a look at animal welfare laws).

They never seemed to stop coming.


Once things got to ridiculous levels, some enterprising press secretaries consulted the thesaurus and started announcing taskforces instead. This week it was a "team" to advise on the Fair Pay Agreements policy.

The National Party's derision only seemed to egg the Government along. Soon after it announced one into the health system and one into the Holidays Act.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage really got into the spirit of things.

She announced not only a "special taskforce" to deal with China's move to stop taking waste for recycling but also an "external working group" to provide advice to the special taskforce.

It has handily deferred the need to spend money on implementing policies for the time being, but Finance Minister Grant Robertson is likely already waking in a cold sweat at the thought of the influx of Budget bids that awaits him when the groups report back.

There are many reasons for this tsunami of committees.

Some are purely political and some are sound.

On the sound side, Labour has sometimes pushed things to a committee because it is hopeful of a wider buy-in or at least wants to look like it is.


It has promised to involve National in its review of the NCEA system which involves former National education minister Sir Lockwood Smith.

Labour has used the same reason for its working group on "fair pay agreements" although the likelihood of National buying into that is in the Never Never Land regardless of Jim Bolger's involvement.

On the political front, the use of working groups gives never-ending opportunities for ministers to make announcements.

They hold press conferences to announce working groups. Ahead awaits the delight of announcements of the findings of those groups, what the Government will do in response to those findings and announcements when they actually do it.

Another advantage is that for politically contentious issues such as tax and labour reforms, the Government can slate the blame for unpopular decisions or stuff-ups down to the advice of so-called independent experts.

On the negative side, the overall effect is one of change interrupted.

At one point during the campaign, Ardern directly addressed the views of some voters that she needed three more years in Opposition to get experience under her belt.

She told those people New Zealand could not afford more time. Change was needed now and she could deliver it.

That urgent change has since been farmed out to working groups to ponder over.

Ardern has defended the practice, saying when change is being made there needs to be work to ensure it is done in a robust fashion and policies will work as intended.

That leads to the perception National has happily exploited that Labour had not done its homework in its nine years in Opposition.

Its key policies should have been at the prefabricated furniture phase – read the instructions, hurl in a few screws and lo and behold, it is ready to go.

It is excusable for some bits to be missing given the constraints of Opposition. But turning policies into reality is usually the job of the public service.

An election is when people cast their votes on policies.

In some cases the consultation Labour is now doing should have been done when it developed the policy to start with.

That is particularly the case with policies such as Fair Trade Agreements, which have been Labour policy since 2011. It had also claimed to consult business widely on such matters when it did its Future of Work project.

Then again Labour is also being criticised for the one thing it did not set up a working group or taskforce for.

That was its decision to halt future block offer permits for oil and gas exploration.

There was little to no advance consultation with the workers whose jobs now have an expiry date, their employers or the local community and businesses. Nor was there advice from Treasury on the economic impact.

It doesn't take a working group to identify the one person whose job is more certain after that decision: local New Plymouth National MP Jonathan Young.