2021 in review: Biggest political moments

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Between Covid and National's dramas, it's been another big year in politics.

The Beehive, New Zealand's Parliament.

1News digital political reporter Anna Whyte looks at some of the year's most memorable moments.

The year of the vaccine, Delta, a long lockdown and traffic lights

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern dubbed 2021 'The Year of the Vaccine' – ending on a high of reaching a 90 per cent vaccination rate of the eligible population.

But it was also the year New Zealand's Covid response was forced to pivot from elimination to the new traffic light system, after Delta took hold and it proved unachievable to shake, leaving Aucklanders locked down for months.

The border was slammed shut again to Australia, after a tumultuous few months with the bubble open. MIQ requirements were shortened amid the upset of thousands of New Zealanders who were unable to return.

Should Omicron not interfere, Kiwis in Australia will be able to come home with a week of home isolation next year.

One very long week for National

Christopher Luxon with Christmas presents from Breakfast.

Simon Bridges began one morning in late November doing book signings.

By evening, he had his portfolios stripped after a late-night press release by then-leader Judith Collins that ultimately saw her voted out of her position.

A leadership contest was sparked, with Bridges bowing out hours before the vote, leaving the role uncontested for new MP Christopher Luxon and his deputy Nicola Willis.

Health overhaul

April saw the announcement that New Zealand’s health system is in for a significant shake up. Changes include an end to district health boards in favour of a national organisation, as well as creating a new Māori Health Authority and a new public health agency and a centralised authority – Health NZ.

The 2022 Budget purse is getting a one off boost to $6 billion, with much of that paying for the new reforms.

Housing woes

House prices continue to soar – despite moves from the Government that even included a cross-party effort to cut red tape and speed up the build of housing in New Zealand.

A $1 billion fund was opened in June to kick up the pace and scale of builds, after sweeping changes were announced in March. That included pumping $3.8b into supply, doubling the bright-line test and expanding first home buyer eligibility, while it also removed the ability of property investors to offset interest expenses against rental income.

A monumental apology

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Government formally apologised on June 26 for what was described as the demeaning and severe 1970s dawn raids that exploited and racially profiled the Pacific community, creating deep wounds.

Jacinda Ardern takes part in the adapted Samoan Ifoga ceremony.

Tears fell at the announcement, as Pacific People’s Minister Aupito William Sio spoke of being dawn-raided, having "memories about my father being helpless".

The three-hour ceremony, where the Government offered its "formal and unreserved apology" for the dawn raids, was highly emotional, spiritual and symbolic.

Labour Party Ministers and MPs, and Pasifika community representatives who were affected by the dawn raids, carried out a modified ifoga.

The traditional Samoan ceremony signals the asking or receiving of forgiveness. Ardern offered a "formal and unreserved apology", telling the Pacific communities she stood before” you as a symbol of the Crown that wronged you nearly 50 years ago”.

Special mentions:

A new law passed unanimously in March to give parents three days of bereavement leave following a miscarriage or stillbirth. Leave for having a miscarriage at the time was already in place in India and the Philippines, however, it was inaccessible for many workers.

In February, 1News revealed Air NZ had been helping the Saudi Arabian military despite it fuelling a humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Senior political reporter Benedict Collins revealed that the company’s business unit, Gas Turbines, which specialises in servicing military marine engines and turbines, has been supporting the Saudi Navy.

Shockwaves were felt after Bay of Plenty MP Kiritapu Allan told the country she had stage 3 cervical cancer in April, after a six-centimetre-long tumour was discovered the same day she led the country through a tsunami and evacuation alert in March. On December 10, she was handed "a bit of a new lease on life" after receiving the news the first scan since undergoing treatment found no sign of residual cancer.

After years of advocacy, a proposal to ban conversion is going through Parliament, with the number of public submissions breaking the New Zealand record for the highest number received.

New counter-terrorism laws were sped up, after the September supermarket terrorist attack that left eight people injured.

Dame Cindy Kiro was sworn in as New Zealand's newest Governor-General in October at Parliament, the first wahine Māori to hold the role.

The establishment of a Ministry for Disabled People was announced in October, and Oranga Tamariki is set for change and was told that the highly controversial uplifts should only be used as a last resort, after the department responsible for the well-being of children has been plagued with numerous issues for years.

The terms of a free trade deal was reached with the UK, which was estimated to be worth $1 billion to the New Zealand economy.