1 NEWS' Anna Whyte looks back at the top political moments of 2020.
1. Covid-19 lockdown announcements and the 1pm briefings
On March 23, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the country we were "facing the potential for devastating impacts" as the Covid-19 pandemic swarmed the world. We had just 48 hours before the country was plunged into a strict lockdown for weeks. It was just the start of the tense 1pm briefings, where the country sat on the edge of its couches for the daily Covid-19 numbers. By the end, New Zealand had seemed to collectively and successfully battle the virus. Until two months later.
At 8.53pm August 11, media were notified of a press conference starting in just 22 minutes. The Beehive theatrette was full of tired-looking journalists in causal clothes. The Prime Minister then announced the second Covid outbreak, throwing Auckland back into lockdown and the rest of the country to Level 2.
2. Election 2020
A whirlwind that began with the date being pushed back a month to October due to the second Covid outbreak – a move that had happened only three times previously in New Zealand’s history - for World War I, World War II and during the Great Depression.
It didn’t stop there. The aftermath of Covid-19 saw a first majority under MMP after Labour wiped out every obstacle in its path, leaving only a few electorates unscathed. What were once cemented as ‘safe’ National seats now sit red.
The election saw the defeat of Winston Peters and NZ First as the party sunk below the Parliamentary threshold. NZ First’s demise and National’s low result was ACT's gain. They brought nine other MPs to Parliament, while we also saw the return of the Māori Party, who are promising to be the pebble in the shoe of those holding onto colonial ways.
In February, National was enjoying the fruits of strong polling and a strong caucus. Then Covid hit and National got hit in the polls, tumbling to 29 per cent. After holding tightly to high polling numbers throughout its term in Opposition, it took one day after the low result for Simon Bridges to be rolled by Todd Muller. Fifty-three days later Todd Muller announced he would stand down, and that evening Judith Collins stepped up.
Their president said during their post-election conference that they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t in the face of Covid-19. (Leaks, planting supporters along election trails and having three leaders in less than two months didn’t help either.)
4. The mid-year fall of MPs
David Clark: After multiple issues during the Covid-19 pandemic, including his breaching of lockdown rules, Clark resigned as Health Minister at the beginning of July.
Hamish Walker: Personal information including names and addresses of people who tested positive for Covid-19 were leaked to some media by Walker in early July. Four days later he announced he would not stand at the next election.
Andrew Falloon: After citing "unresolved grief", Falloon announced his intention to resign from Parliament in late July. On July 23, a police investigation was launched amid allegations he sent inappropriate images to a number of women. Police confirmed in December that no charges would be laid.
Iain Lees-Galloway: On July 22, Lees-Galloway was dismissed by the Prime Minister as a Minister over an "inappropriate relationship" with a person who had previously worked in his office. He was Workplace Relations and Safety Minister at the time.
5. Ihumātao resolution
After years of dispute, a binding memorandum of understanding (He Pūmautanga) has been signed by Kīngitanga, the Crown and Auckland Council in December, with the Government buying the land for $29.9 million.
Ihumātao was confiscated from Māori in 1863 and was then held in private ownership. In 2014, Fletcher Building purchased the land with the intention to build 480 homes in partnership with local iwi Te Kawerau ā Maki. However, a separate group claiming mana whenua of the land occupied Ihumātao and those plans were put on hold in July last year.
Early this year, I wrote my political predictions and tipped 2020 as being a big year. 'Big' is an understatement and barely justifies the whirlwind of a year that saw multitudes of people lose their jobs and businesses, 2100 New Zealanders contract and 25 people lose their lives to a virus that pulled the world to its knees.