Year of reckoning for Ardern Government

The Labour led Government has to step up and prove it is as progressive and transformative as Prime Minister has promised.

In the Speech from the Throne at the beginning of the current term:

The programme I will outline today is ambitious.

This government is committed to major investments in housing, health, education, police, and infrastructure.

This will be a government of transformation. It will lift up those who have been forgotten or neglected, it will take action on child poverty and homelessness, it will restore funding to education and the health systems to allow access for all, it will protect the environment and take action on climate change, and it will build a truly prosperous nation and a fair society, together.

This will be a government of aspiration.

There will be a progressive tax system where everyone pays their fair share, according to their means…

This ambitious plan to take real action on climate change…

A nation in which fairness and equality of opportunity are not just aspirations but facts. And a nation in which all communities are empowered.

Last year was in the main underwhelming. Much was put on hold pending work groups and inquiries.

This year the rubber needs to hit the cycleway.

Sam Sachdeva – 2019: the year of action at Parliament?

A stream of working groups

For Jacinda Ardern’s Government, the biggest task may be dealing with the stream of reports and recommendations that start to come in from the various working groups it has set up since taking power.

Derided by National as an expensive abdication of responsibility and defended by the Government as necessary work after years of neglect, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.

What is undeniable is that the cost of running the groups will be eclipsed by the dollar figures attached to the recommendations that they make.

While the books are in healthy condition, Finance Minister Grant Robertson has already signalled to the Labour faithful that fiscal prudence is a guiding principle – an understandable position given accusations of economic vandalism hurled at left-wing parties, but one which could lead to disquiet if the governing parties are seen to be falling short of their voters’ expectations.

2019 may be the year when the public gets a better sense of whether the Government will be as truly transformational as Ardern has suggested, or if it may fall short of the hype (although it will be years or decades until we know for sure).

We will have to wait and see how things pan out through the year.

 

Increase in electric vehicle numbers, fleet still tiny

The Government has significantly increased the number of electric vehicles in it’s fleet.

NZ Herald:  Just how green is the ministerial car fleet?

The Government has confirmed it intends to transition its full fleet, including the 32 BMW 7-series vehicles, to emissions-free vehicles by 2026.

In total, 29 per cent of all ministerial vehicles – including Crown and self-drive cars are electric vehicles (EVs). That’s up from 2 per cent this time last year.

A major increase, with plans to continue converting the fleet to EVs.

The complete Crown fleet is made up of 72 vehicles, both owned and leased.

But a tiny fleet.

EVs aren’t viable for everyone yet. The up front cost will put many people off, with few fully battery powered vehicles and chargeable hybrids costing from about $50 thousand. With reduced energy costs the life time cost may be lower, and the Government can ‘afford’ to invest up front, but many people will be reluctant to do this.

This comes not long after the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on New Zealand’s roads passed 10,000 – that’s up from just 210 five years ago.

Although that’s a dramatic increase, it makes up just 0.25 per cent of New Zealand’s total vehicle fleet.

A tiny fraction of cars on the road.

Apart from around town driving there are other drawbacks. One major one is the limited range of EVs – it is improving, but still well behind the range of a car on a tank of petrol.

There is also only a small number of charging stations around the country.

And even if you can find a charging station on a trip you have to wait until the car is recharged. This takes much longer than pumping petrol.

One option without the limitations are hybrid EVs that use a petrol engine supplemented by battery power. These are much more competitively priced – new Toyota Corolla hybrids cost much the same as conventional Corollas. But they only reduce fuel use by up to a third, a significant saving making these economically attractive, but only a partial solution in reducing fossil fuel use.

Another issue I haven’t seen addressed – if there was a major shift to EVs, where would the power come from to charge them? Most of our current power supply is renewable, mainly hydro, with some wind.  A big increase in wind generation would create continuity of supply problems because of weather variability. Wind power can only supplement on demand power sources.

The Government is setting a good example switching to EVs, but they would do much better if they came up with a plan for how to fuel the inevitable increase in EV use.

Government needs to step up and walk their transformational hype in 2019

Over the last year the incoming Labour-led Government had some big challenges, in particular to get themselves in a position to run the country after unexpected success in the 2017 election and subsequent coalition negotiations.

With some notable exceptions, like Clare Curran, Meka Whaitiri, and the difficulties getting Kiwibuild up to speed, they have largely been successful – so far.

2019 poses different challenges. The Government deferred many decisions by setting up a myriad of reviews, inquiries, working groups and whatever else they called their policy-formation-while-in-government devices. Some of these are supposed to address issues that they had claimed were urgent, like housing shortages, homelessness, poverty, mental health, health generally.

They have to be seen to taking semi-urgent action (belated) on a number of things.

Peter Wilson reviews what they have done this year in Year in NZ politics: Promises, scandals, progress (RNZ).

The government began 2018 with a largely inexperienced Cabinet and an ambitious First 100 Days programmeto implement. Parliament and the Beehive were frantic places but it pushed the legislation through.

National’s tax cuts were scrapped and in their place the Families Package was rolled out. Winter energy subsidies for pensioners came in and the billion-dollar-a-year regional development fund was signed off.

During the year the year the government set up its tax working group after promising there would be no changes during its first term in office.

Another flagship policy was introduced, making the first year of tertiary education free. At the beginning of this year, it hadn’t made much difference to enrolments and the government said it would take time to become effective.

Foreigners were banned from buying existing homes, the sale of state houses ended and the Pike River Recovery Agency was set up to supervise re-entry to the mine.

Ms Ardern took personal responsibility for reducing child poverty and holds the Cabinet portfolio.

The promise of KiwiBuild – 100,000 affordable homes in 10 years – began to deliver, but only just. It’s the one flagship policy that could damage the government, and evidence of success is so far elusive.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson presented a cautious Budget in May with an emphasis on rebuilding public services.

With the economy running well and the tax take up he was able to forecast strong surpluses which can be harvested in the next election year.

A healthy and improving economy, and the prudence of Minister of Finance Grant Robertson, have set this Government up for their second year in power.

The government can head into 2019 confident of its stability, but there are some big challenges in the New Year.

It has set up numerous reviews and inquiries into vital issues including health, justice and mental health. The rubber hits the road when those reports come in and ministers have to decide what to actually do about them.

This is, by its own claim, a transformational government. The status quo or minor tweaking won’t do.

It is not a transformational government, yet. Most tweaks so far have been relatively minor.

Prime Minister Ardern (in particular) and her Government talked a lot of talk about what they might do and what urgently needed doing in 2018.

2019 is the year they need to walk the walk, or they could stumble in election year in 2020.

It will probably take until May, budget month, to see how bold and how transformational the Government really wants to be.

And the future of this Government could depend a lot on what comes out of the tax working group. This won’t be easy because it was hobbled before it started looking into possible tax reforms, with some transformational options ruled out by Ardern and Labour.

Ardern has been given an easy ride by journalists so far, even to the extent that some fawn over her, but they need to put aside liking the Prime Minister and her baby and looking seriously into whether Ardern and her Government are going to live up to their PR hype.

That needs to happen in 2019.

Government control over us versus our right to free choice

Governments have to have some control over it’s citizens. Laws are generally for our protection and benefit, and taxing us is essential for providing public services and essentials like adequate health care and education for everyone.

But most of us don’t want to much control over our lives, and want to retain as much freedom of choice as possible.

Governments continually deal with trying to find the right balance between things that will put some controls and restrictions and responsibilities on us, and allowing us freedom of choice and to take responsibility for our own lives as much as possible.

Lana Hart (The Press) has a fairly scathing political lean, but also asks some reasonable questions in The sweet spot of government power (government power will never be sweet for al of the people all of the time).

No matter where the Sixth Labour Government and its coalition partners looked, there were things to fix up. Efforts to rid the halls of power of the stink of neglect permeated their work in the first year of their political residence, bringing more resources, stronger interventions, more oversight, and better support for the defenceless in our society.

‘Stink of neglect’ is an unfair appraisal, but there are always things to ‘fix up’ for any incoming government (and any returning government).

But we don’t want our governments to go too far in their control over our lives. We don’t want them needling into our private lives and making decisions that we should make for ourselves.

We want the right balance of government in our lives.

I’m sure it is a constant juggle to get the equilibrium right between enabling the government to create safe and fair living conditions for all their residents while allowing people the autonomy to make their own choices.

How far should government go at gathering information that, at some stage, may be helpful to a family in need?

This is a tricky question. Many of us probably don’;t want the government gathering our personal information – except when it may help us. Having our health records on hand if we need emergency care in any part of the country could be quite beneficial to us, even life saving.

At what stage does the government use the force of its many resources to intervene in a sector – such as water safety, housing, and tourism – that might better be left alone? When does a government that needs the support of New Zealand businesses have to step up its mandate to regulate it more tightly?

In the vast house of government, these questions must keep the occupants up at night.

Every Cabinet, and each Minister should be considering these things continually as a standard part of their demanding jobs.

As well every party and each Member of Parliament should be looking at a decent balance between freedom and intervention. Opposition MPs need to weigh up holding to account versus using the public to score political points. Parties need to develop good policy that doesn’t use our lives as political footballs – and in particular they should not bribe some voters at the cost of others.

Surely this – enabling people to live good lives –  is the role of all governments, whether local or national. They should exert some influence over us with legitimate rules without getting in the way of our individual rights to autonomy and free choice. Since some of us need more help than others, governments also need to step in to even out the inequalities that life throws at us.

Enabling people to live good lives? Or allowing us to live the lives we choose as much as is possible in a fair society, taking into account the rights and needs of others living in our community?

The reality is that some of both is required.

Should the government take care of people, or enable people to take care of themselves?

Or both to varying degrees?

Is there a natural progression of community and care (for some) from whanaua to hapu to iwi – to Government?

Everyone wants health care provided, and education, a protective police force and a bunch of other things. And many people like financial assistance and housing assistance, if not to be fully provided for.

Richard Harman raised this in his coverage of Labour’s conference in the weekend:

The most eloquent outline to the conference of what that might be came not from her  but from her deputy party leader, Kelvin Davis.

He said that the Labour party was in government to take care of people.

“As a government, we are not only changing policy and legislation,” he said.

“We are changing the way we see ourselves as a country.”

The same idea; that this was a government that was changing things ran through a speech from Finance Minister, Grant Robertson.

From Kelvin Davis’ Speech to the 2018 Labour Party Conference:

We are tackling many hard issues as a government. Housing, child poverty, prison numbers, climate change, improving the wellbeing of our country. None of the answers are easy. But we know taking on these challenges is the right thing to do.

Because, unlike the other lot, when we talk about eradicating child poverty, helping those whanau that are struggling the most, we are not just talking about percentages, headlines and numbers on a spreadsheet.

Poverty has a face. It has names.

We are talking about our neighbours, our friends, our whanau.

And that is what sets a Labour Government apart from the rest.

In the end we are in Government to take care of people

From Grant Robertson’s Speech to the 2018 Labour Party Conference:

Next month the Treasury will release its first Living Standards Dashboard.  This will show a range of indicators of our current wellbeing as a nation.  It includes the tangible, like incomes and home ownership, but also the intangible like life satisfaction and cultural wellbeing.  It is a work in progress.  We need to make sure it is truly reflective of Aotearoa New Zealand, and all that makes us unique. It will evolve over the coming years. But it is a great start to a new way of thinking about what counts as success.

How much should the Government provide for the wellbeing of New Zealanders?

Moreover, people voted for Labour because they knew that we cared about them, we were part of the community and they trusted us to look out for their families.

Is the Labour Party a part of a caring community? Should the Government be seen as a caring benefactor? To some extent that’s expected. The question is, how much?

Some people want the Government to intervene and to provide for them, they want the Government to help them and care for them.

Others want the Government to keep out of their lives as much as possible, to not interfere, to be a provider of health, education and services in the background only.

We can’t avoid the Government having a major effect on all of our lives, through tax gathering, provision of infrastructure and services. Those of us who survive to 65 get universal superannuation for the rest of our lives.

No one argues against having prisons for those who offend against the wellbeing of others.

Some people need more care than others, Some are genuinely disadvantaged through illness and disability. Their families and caregivers deserve some assistance.

How much should the Government care for the people? Of course we hope that politicians care, but how much care should they actually provide? We don’t pay enough tax to enable the Government to provide the care that people want.

To an extent it is a question of how much we want the Government to be a visible and engaged provider or care, or whether they making things available with a more background role.

Many of us have moved to a more satellite self sufficient society, but some want more provided.

Perhaps there are different cultural expectations. Do Maori (generally) expect the Government to be a more community engaged caregiver? They may think that there’s a natural progression from whanau to hapu to iwi to Government.

That’s quite different to how I see things. That doesn’t mean one is right or wrong, just that there are widely varying needs and expectations.

Should Government be the umbrella caregiver?

Grading one year of government

After a year in charge here are some gradings of the parties in Government.

Labour: B-

There have been some wins, let’s be clear about that.but at some point the pain of those on the bottom must shame this Party into actually doing something, not just pretty words and symbolism.

Jacinda continues to be their strongest performer with Grant Robertson, Andrew Little, David Parker, Willie Jackson, Kiritapu Allan, Deborah Russell, Marja Lubeck, Tamiti Coffey, Damien O’Connor, Greg O’Connor and Michael Wood being star performers to date.

Lot’s of talking, very little walking at this stage.

NZ First: B+

…they’ve done enough to keep their voters happy. The weird thing about the NZ values was just laughable. If Jones can get the forestry side working from planting, to cutting to working the wood here to building with it, he will be one of the greatest economic architects NZ has ever produced.

Greens: C-

After the meltdown of the 2017 election, there have been some wins, of that there can be no doubt, while Chloe, Jan Logie and Julie Anne Genter continue to be their best performers…but unfortunately it’s the fuck ups that gain media attention.

The Greens have become a middle class vehicle for alienating woke identity politics…

The Greens have gone backwards every election for the last 3 elections, tone policing on Twitter (I’m not making that up, there really is a ‘tone policing’ call out) doesn’t seem the way forward.

That’s from Martyn Bradbury in One year of the new Government: The faded hope of a hollow promise – grading Labour, NZ First & Greens

Conclusion:

There have been small victories but essentially the neoliberal bureaucracy and Ministries rule this Government, not the other way around and unless Labour, NZ First and the Greens find a way to shame the Ministries into reform, the Wellington Elites will continue to run the agenda, not the representatives of the people.

So the revolution driven by the Auckland Left has not transpired, yet at least.

Another left wing view (David Cormack): The politics of doing jack-all

Government, it’s time to start dominating the story. This last quarter you did jack-all and went up in the polls anyway.

When you started you were a shambles. You were disorganised, you didn’t know what you were doing, you clearly hadn’t expected to be in government and you out-sourced all your actual governing to others.

Oh sure you have done some things, and you’re running a lot better now, but if the government was a movie, this last year felt less like an action packed resolution scene, and more like a long establishing shot. An establishing shot full of working groups.

So while the past 12 months has been marked by the Government slowly getting its act together …the next 12 months promise more. But with that promise comes risk, because there’s a lot of hype about this politics of kindness. And if people start to feel like they’re not getting what they voted for then you’ll burn through a lot of capital. And it’s debatable whether you’ve earned much capital to burn.

More from Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Verdicts on the Government’s first year

And an editorial from ODT: Labour’s satisfactory first year

The passing of the one-year mark by the coalition Government has provided opportunities to assess its performance. Generally, these reviews have been positive, and we agree with these opinions.

But, when all is said and done, the Government will flourish or flounder on economic conditions. If the lack of business confidence is reflected in employment and growth, if changed industrial laws affect competitiveness, if New Zealand becomes too expensive and less efficient as it is in danger of becoming then Labour will suffer.

Just as the strong United States economy has helped add a layer to President Donald Trump’s support, so Labour’s success will depend on the economy and on-going effects of Labour’s policies on people’s monetary wellbeing. So far so good. Labour and its coalition have navigated the first year satisfactorily.

And they are still in, which has exceeded some expectations. They have the opportunity to do a lot more over the next two years and live up to some of their promise and promises.

 

There’s still a Government somewhere

Jami-Lee Ross has dominated the news over the last couple of days and that looks set to continue. However there is a Government still. I have had to go looking for news about them.

The Honourable Dame Annette King will attend the 12th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Leaders’ Summit as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy in Brussels this week (18-19 October).

Small Business Minister Stuart Nash is encouraging the Australian and New Zealand public to provide feedback on a joint electronic invoicing (e-Invoicing) initiative that will save businesses time and money.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today announced the appointment of diplomat Anthony Simpson as Ambassador to Italy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today announced the appointment of diplomat Matthew Hawkins as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

The Film Industry Working Group has reported back today, providing recommendations on restoring collective bargaining rights to film production workers, says the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway.

Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced the third and final agreement in principle has been reached for new air ambulance services that will be safer, better and firmly focused on patients.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage today announced that the Department of Conservation (DOC) will close 21 tracks across kauri land to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback.

Racing Minister Winston Peters has announced the next steps to promote new investment in the horse bloodstock industry.

Labour 100 day medical cannabis promise could be 1,000 days or more

The lack of urgency by the Government on medical cannabis has been very disappointing, after initial promise of it being a first 100 day priority, and especially as it was promoted as important by Jacinda Ardern in the memory of her friend Helen Kelly.

And it was promoted as a 100 day promise:

Labour will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain

It is now about 360 days since the Labour-led government took over, and they look nowhere near fulfilling this promise.

MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun: “It is disappointing that the bill’s second reading has been postponed to November due to haggling around supplementary papers to improve the bill.”

“Patients are left disenfranchised and frustrated with the lack of progress on the bill”.

On 1 November 2017 Dylan Kelly wrote (The Spinoff): On a new government, kindness and the (unfinished) legacy of my mother, Helen Kelly

Jacinda Ardern’s programme offers real hope for the issues Mum fought so passionately for, from labour law and cannabis reform to forestry and Pike River.

…Fast-forward to this year’s debate, and Jacinda Ardern’s rapid-fire declaration that legal medicinal cannabis was a no-brainer was considered the savvy political response.

Mum’s final public words were “I want people just to be kind. It would make a hell of a difference.” Jacinda Ardern, in her final interview before becoming prime minister, told John Campbell that her government was going to “bring kindness back”.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. But with Prime Minister Ardern and co in charge, we can finally get started.

Ardern started with talk of kindness, and Labour started with a promise on medical cannabis, but a year later they have not delivered.

A press release from Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand:


Government’s 100-day Pledge to legalise Medical Cannabis could slip to 1000 days.

Documents released to MCANZ under the official information act show that the regulations associated with the government medical cannabis bill could take years, with a planned go-live of mid-2020. This go-live date is subject to change and with the current under-resourcing of the MOH, it could be considered a best-case scenario.  Additionally, an advisory committee initially scheduled for March has been pushed back to November, and may yet be pushed back further.

“It is disappointing that the bill’s second reading has been postponed to November due to haggling around supplementary papers to improve the bill. If the Minister of health had consulted widely in the first place when drafting the bill, we wouldn’t be in this fiasco where  essentially anyone who has a stake in the outcome of this bill, whether it’s the patients, the budding industry or indeed the political opposition are all asking for significant amendments to the bill.”

“Patients are left disenfranchised and frustrated with the lack of progress on the bill, and the lack of amendments from the select committee, where the overwhelming majority wished for the exemption to extend to those with severe, chronic and debilitating conditions.”

“It is likely that if things continue as they are, by the time this bill is sorted, nearly 3 years will have passed. Circumstances will have progressed so far that patients will likely be using the referendum as a tool to gain safe legal access, potentially skewing the result in favour”.

“Another issue is the lack of budget at the Ministry of health for external consultation or industry/international experts to assist. We hope that with the surprise surplus government has announced this week, that some of this can be dedicated to setting up the scheme”

“Without additional resources in the near term, it will prove hard for this potential industry to catch up with Australia, costing the country in jobs and revenues, and patients on a cost basis,” says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.

Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand

https://mcawarenessnz.org/


Jacinda Ardern in 2016 (Stuff):  The pain behind the medical marijuana debate’

It was sometime in the middle of last year when the political suddenly felt personal. It wasn’t a party, it wasn’t even a social occasion. I was visiting my friend who had spent the evening periodically flinching, doubling over, and rocking, and was now reaching for a form of cannabis as she tried to deal with her pain.

My friend was dying.

I think that’s what gets me most about the medical marijuana debate. It’s the perfect example of the brutal reality of people’s individual situations, and the layers of complexity that emerge as soon as you dig into it as a politician.

This is not a new debate – it came up when I first came into Parliament. At that time it was in the form of a member’s bill. It’s fair to say that it had a few holes in it, but those were all details that we had time to fix. I voted in favour of it, others used the drafting as an excuse to turn it down. The bill failed.

And here we are again. Same problem, different political cycle.

That was the last political cycle, before Ardern made 100 promises as Labour Prime Minister.

My friend will never benefit from change in this area, she passed away. But in reality I doubt she ever really cared too much. She was too busy living every single day to the fullest right up until her last breath. Surely we owe it to everyone to give them the best chance they have to do the same, despite the pain.

Surely Ardern and her Government owe it to the people who experience problems and pain on a daily basis, people who die suffering, to bloody well treat this like the priority she promised.

Swarbrick putting Ardern, Clark to shame on drug rhetoric and inaction

There are serious and growing drug problems in new Zealand, especially with P (methamphetamine) and synthetic substitutes for cannabis. I have slammed the Government for being shamefully lame as people suffer and die- see  Clark, Ardern shamefully lame not urgently addressing drug problems.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick seems to be a lone voice amongst MPs on taking urgent and effective action (where is James Shaw on this?)

thinks quite a lot::

The War on Drugs has not and will not work. Moral crusades are costing lives. Nowhere in the world has been able to get rid of drugs, or reduce drug harm, by ratcheting up penalties.

With the synthetics crisis, Aotearoa New Zealand has an crucial decision: will we do what works, or will we just do “something”?

The easy “something” is to beat the punitive drum, in an attempt to satisfy people we “take this seriously.” Taking drug harm seriously looks like being brave enough to confront decades of evidence and genuinely treat drugs as a health issue.

Treating drugs as a health issue does not look like locking more people up. We actually have ample evidence to show that increasing penalties fills our jail cells, but doesn’t decrease access or supply to drugs.

Look to Methamphetamine, which has under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 held Class A life imprisonment for decades. There’s been no reduction in demand or consumption, but increases, according to Ministry of Health data.

Evidence demonstrates that the only real way to tackle drugs is to focus on decreasing demand. We have a successful model in the collaboration between Northland DHB&Police, reducing demand for P, shifting resources to health, which we could expand and roll out across the country.

We need to do something, but that something desperately needs to be what works. If we cow to law-and-order rhetoric, if we fail to be courageous enough to pay attention to the research, we’ll repeat our past mistakes.

Repeating our past mistakes is more than not good enough when the evidence shows more of the same will cost people’s lives. Especially when those unnecessary deaths are the catch-cry of those calling for knee-jerk criminalisation.

The believe we need to genuinely treat drugs as a health issue. That looks like ending the War on Drugs. That looks like rejecting greater penalisation, which we all know, because the evidence shows, just won’t work.

Swarbrick could do with more concerted support from other Green MPs on this.

And somehow they need to push Ardern into converting her lofty rhetoric into actual and urgent action. Not just talking about twiddling a bit some time in the future. Urgent reform is required.

Ardern has talked about her government being progressive and wonderful, but she and her ministers are failing to walk the walk on drugs.

Swarbrick is putting them to shame.

NY Times – do Ardern’s progressive politics work at home?

Jacinda Aardern has had very good media coverage for a small country leader, and she has generally acquitted herself very well, but not all media is fawning promotion.

New York Times: Jacinda Ardern’s Progressive Politics Made Her a Global Sensation. But Do They Work at Home?

In many ways — temperament, style and policy, among them — Ms. Ardern is the polar opposite of President Trump and other brash male leaders.

She has become a subject of global fascination for her progressive values, her youth and charisma, and her status as a new mother who has garnered more attention than any previous leader of this small Pacific country.

But even as her star soars abroad, Ms. Ardern increasingly faces challenges at home. Corporate interests are lining up against her agenda after the country’s business confidence rating dropped to a 10-year low in July; the confidence rating has since improved, according to new figures released this month, but it remains weak nonetheless.

There are risks to the economy and to the government’s spending plans and wish lists.

Important policies, including tax reform, are still being decided, and critics have cast doubts on Ms. Ardern’s ability to maintain discipline within her governing coalition.

Indiscipline and dysfunction have hovered at home while Ardern has been in New York.

Experts say New Zealand exemplifies the difficulty of enacting a progressive agenda at a time when politics are fractured and conservatives worldwide are emboldened. Ms. Ardern’s supporters say she must push even harder for transformative change.

“The gestures of kindness and care need to be matched sometimes with more concrete and meaningful aspects of kindness in practice,” said Max Harris, a fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, and the author of “The New Zealand Project,” a new book about the country’s politics. He added that true success for Ms. Ardern would require structural shifts in social and economic systems — and it remains to be seen whether Ms. Ardern can get it done.

Ardern has not been progressive (or revolutionary) enough for those on the far left.

Ms. Ardern came to power last October. After nine years of center-right government in New Zealand, voters chose Ms. Ardern and her party because of their promise of a better deal for ordinary people, especially the marginalized and vulnerable.

That’s a very simplistic view of how the election and formation of government played out. In part Ardern became Prime Minister due to the 7% support of a not very left wing at times NZ First, and many NZ First voters would have preferred that Ardern didn’t get the nod.

But her power is limited. In New Zealand, a party does not have to win an outright majority in Parliament to govern. Labour formed a governing coalition with minor parties and in recent weeks, disputes between Ms. Ardern’s party and the party of Winston Peters, the deputy prime minister whose support was crucial to her victory, have become more frequent, leading critics to argue that Ms. Ardern is not in charge of her own government.

That was highlighted again in her absence.

One of her most common refrains is: “This is the right thing to do.” She used that line this month when announcing that New Zealand would accept 500 more refugees per year starting in 2020, raising the country’s quota to 1,500. The phrase also appeared in her speeches announcing policies to freeze lawmakers’ pay and increase paid parental leave.

In an interview last month, she argued that values and government go together. “You can be pragmatic and grow an economy and improve well-being and do all of the things you have an expectation governments do, but do it with a bit of heart,” she said.

That remains an unproven and fairly vague plan.

In New York Ardern outlined in general terms how she things government should progress in New Zealand, but she still has a lot to prove in practice.