Commenting on the New Zealand approach to coronavirus Aussie Prime Minister Morrison told Britain’s Financial Times, “This is not seen to be in our view a wise trade-off in how we manage the two crises we are facing: the economic one and, of course, the health one.”

Dead right. Let’s see how it pans out by year end. My pick; Australia in deep recession, New Zealand in a worse depression and another exodus across the Tasman beginning, as in the 1990s.

The key difference, despite Australia’s greater vulnerability with two large cities, is they have grown-ups in charge.


Only the COL supporters don’t understand the last part Bob.

I’m sure the PM is well-meaning, and she’s right that health/economics is a false dichotomy, yet stoically pursing the same health-centric approach, despite even WHO & health science doing an about face in March, reinforces the dichotomy, and not immediately pivoting the strategy towards effectiveness when the science changed reinforces the linear thinking tosh that “health enables better economic outcomes”, and risks sub-optimal economic AND health outcomes. Having not even tried evidence-based strategies for better health and economic outcomes, NZ now seems fixed on a strategy of hope for both. I hope it works, but have never much been a fan of hope-based strategy. And slavish adherence to WHO continues, despite its linear thinking too: “Did WHO just Lock in the Cratering of the Global Economy?” https://medium.com/illumination/did-the-who-just-lock-in-the-cratering-of-the-global-economy-73d726b58690

Tis to be blood on the floor. While I’ll be between here and Melbourne, a Chris I know will be in Cape Town.

“Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases.”

Hahahaha. Comedy gold.

    Yes indeed, the speech writers had to work had on that pivot, and likewise caused laughter all round in my bubble. The hardest part in the post-Covid19 world will be fighting the narrative that Jacinda saved the nation.

    Exactly, Cake Face. ‘Known cases’ is meaningless, parroted by unreflective media in some countries. Elimination means no ‘true cases’, ie no-one with the virus. But while media plays up a nonsense number, little wonder politicians play to it. The real metric NZ has studiously avoided, never testing beyond symptomatic, despite the science known for a very long time now. Even NZ’s random sampling – first delaying it for months, then waiting right until the end of lockdown, and not running antibody tests – means that virtually everyone who had the virus will not show up in ‘tests’ ostensibly for community transmission that, by their design and implementation, will not show community transmission. Interesting times, when “science led strategies” bear little resemblance to, well, science…

    Yip, she spun that badly…. Like a 5 yo.
    She then said extermination is not zero cases but a “attitude to zero cases”
    WTF…. Cindy is smoking the greens cash crop.

Well said Bob Jones so true.

The arbitrary criteria of essential rather than safety was just evidence of unprepared panic. The outlawing of outdoor activity and driving is ridiculous in the face of the complete lack of any evidence of outdoor transmissions as the UK expert panel reported. Banning people commuting to their own bach or other property where their bubble can be maintained is nothing but simple jealousy. The 2m rule is a farce – unnecessary outdoors and inadequate indoors where the main risk factor is shared and recirculated air.

Our Government and media played fear into equal misery – surely the essence of socialism – while actually favouring professionals and paper-pushers and penalising manual workers.

If our media bothered to interview sensible Aussies they would find that they considerARDERN AND HER RABBLE A JOKE

Don Hancock 10 Rua One Place Kaiaua (Whakatiwai) South Auckland 2473 NZ Mobile – +64 21 683 465


At first we were told that the aim was to “flatten the curve”. They seem to have shifted the goal posts to “elimination” (zero or very low number of cases in a defined geographic area) without anyone appearing to have noticed this shift. It’s almost as if the main goal is now to be the winner in some global competition for recording the fewest cases. I reckon a better competition to have entered was that of the country who best balanced health and economic harm. NZ was well-placed to be able to win that particular competition, given its low density population and other favourable attributes. But that might not have produced obvious results in time for the election. And this from an Ardern supporter. She has disappointed me.

Hey Ron Pol , Bob et al.
This is all background noise.
News flash : You aren’t in charge.
Remember the words of “The Gambler ”
Every hands a winner and every hands a loser.
It aint over till the dealins done.
Till then , endless gum bashing and nit picking is an un-necessary side show.
How about we all just pull together for a little while and get the job done !
You can all write books about how you were right when this is behind us.
For every “expert” opinion you can quote there will be just as many that will refute it.
To be clear , I’ve voted in every election since the 1970,s and never once for Labour and never will , but I’m not so blinkered and bitter and twisted that I can’t tell when people are trying to do their best.

    If we give her high marks for failure will you be poor but happy?

      Thanks for your reply Alan
      Thought I was shouting into the empty wilderness.
      Whatever party is in power I will always be OK and happy.
      I admit I am very lucky and privileged.
      I just like to try and cut people a little slack.
      I’m looking for the ” Laughter is the best medicine ” part of the blog rather than the sniping , carping , moaning and griping parts of the blog.

      Fair enough, gwha, but a lot of people are going to come out of this poor and unhappy. In the absence of effective media and parliamentary scrutiny of this government by decree, NZ needs alternative outlets like this, not more cheerleaders.

    So we must only be cheerleaders gwha? Pointing out evidence-based strategies that might better achieve intended outcomes, in real time, is not permitted you say, be quiet and only write about it afterwards.
    I was in DC after the Iraq war started. The (lack of) evidence was known then (and before) but anyone who said it was shouted down just as you’re doing now, so the leaders did what they wanted, having perfectly massaged the crowd (media and public) with war rhetoric to shout down anyone promoting evidence contrary to the narrative.
    Many books were indeed written later, and, curiously, many of those who shouted down the few actually trying to point to evidence in real time, later said they knew the reality all along.
    I agree JA may well be doing her best, and is inspirational in many ways, including many things in handling this, and NZ is better than many other countries, but ignoring science, ignoring strategies better able to achieve better economic and health outcomes, and disregarding the basics of crisis management (which never stays consistent when reality changes, it always pivots fast with outcomes first and foremost not staying on narrative) is just part of that same reality.
    That old “here’s one expert there’ll be another saying the opposite thing” is just another shout down anyone that doesn’t agree with your views lazy rubric, it is not of course how science (or logic) works at all.
    Ditto the gambler reference. It will not magically get better than the hand now dealt. In Feb, the science flipped, and if strategy pivoted fast then, we might have avoided lockdown. In March/April, we might have still pivoted for outcomes, to come out of lockdown with greater certainty for both health and economy.
    But those cards have now been dealt, a great many scientists and business people like Sir Bob pointing out in real time ways to help achieve those goals were shouted down by this very thing you’re evidencing so eloquently and loudly. It is the reason I gave up several weeks ago, along with others. It is now what it will be.
    But hey, keep up the shouting down anyone bearing evidence, after all, you’re safely in the majority, along with most of the media. That’s what makes the war labeling so powerful. There’s lots of scientific literature on that too, if you’re interested. In a year or two according to that literature, journalists tend to wake up to their calling again, and actually start asking the hard questions they didn’t at the time, and dig through the data (nearly all of which exists now, as with Iraq), and start to paint a balanced picture of the reality. You might be in the majority again then too. Along with the vast majority who just knew all along the Iraq war was poorly justified…

      Ron Pol I’m not sure what the Iraq situation has to do with anything in regard to this. Anyone that can predict outcomes there , I take my hat off to you.
      We are dealing with an unknown here. There are no experts or even people claiming to be experts about Covid-19. There are just some people know a lot more than others. And I don’t mean me , in case you were thinking that !
      The world and all the medical experts are making this up as we go along.
      In Feb. the science didn’t flip. We just found out a little more about this force of nature than we knew before.
      So we are all learning all the time.
      I think we could apply that premise to everyone and everything.
      No one has a mortgage on being right.
      Not me , not you , not Bob and certainly not any Prime Minister.

      Agreed, latter point, no one has mortgage on being right, certainly not me.

      Iraq point was simply that evidence it was unfounded existed then. Ditto here, evidence enabling different outcomes has been long known too.

      That links to the science flip. After visiting China, WHO Feb report said asymptomatic spread rare. Hindsight and crisis management 301 says assume nothing, but that’s too high a standard, so, fair enough NZ followed initial science that asymptomatic transmission believed rare; thus, initial focus on travelers and symptomatic logical.

      But then quickly found that asymptomatic spread not only not rare, but the primary means virus gets around.

      With the science flip, crisis management 101, with outcomes-orientation (for optimal health and economic outcomes) would immediately pivot to the real risk.

      That indicates immediate all-population testing, especially in a tiny country like NZ, to find the primary spread vector, asymptomatic carriers. This would find everyone with the virus, asymptomatic and symptomatic, and isolate or treat. Allied to the science flip, there was also science evidence that a strategy pivot aligned with the known science works. The first all-pop testing in an Italian town eliminated the virus in just 2 cycles. They also found the asymptomatic well, and everyone with it was isolated/treated.

      If the strategy pivot immediately followed the science flip, with implementation driven by outcomes-orientation, it is possible lockdown might have been avoided entirely. Again, that might be too high a standard, it still might not have been done fast enough to avoid, but if testing was far advanced, the blunt instrument of lockdown would have supplemented the smart strategy, rather than have only the damaging strategy alone.

      There are serious logistical issues scaling up testing, but policy effectiveness/outcomes leads execution, not the other way around. In any event, all-pop testing is feasible. At German rates, 200k tests/day, NZ could do it in 3 weeks, but UK researchers reckon could do up to 10m/day, postal. NZ would be less than that, but a 7-10 day cycle should be feasible.

      Even after NZ tipped into lockdown, using the 4 weeks to run 2 cycles of all-pop. testing even at that late stage would have let NZ come out with a very high degree of confidence, and possibly earlier, and likely straight to alert level 2, for better health and economic outcomes.

      And saying we didn’t have the test kits is tosh. We’ve known all this since late Feb. In any event, execution is driven by strategy, not the other way around. At any time between late Feb and even now, it was, and still is, doable, just differently. (I can think of three ways off the top of my head, and there are lots of much smarter people than I’ll ever be who know how to execute good strategy).

      But NZ continued the same old limited testing, restricted to symptomatic. A self-proclaimed ‘standard’ rather than outcomes-orientation. The science flipped long ago, with evidence-informed science backing it up, but NZ’s strategy didn’t pivot to match. It stuck with the blunt tool of lockdown instead, and a curious “science-led” strategy that ignored any science that wasn’t labeled ‘lockdown’. Bizarrely, it was even proudly declared there was no plan B. Crisis management doesn’t care how many plans there are, it has only an objective, and will pivot from plan A to E to secure optimal outcomes.

      The reality is that the current strategy is one of hope, and squash anything that pops up. With the delightful twist of the bizarre spectacle of another ‘standard’, proclaimed ‘gold’ this time, for a lazy 3 days getting 80% of contacts. The virus isn’t interested in standards. If Ro is 0.48 that’s 3 full days plus a big fat 20% gap to ramp up past 1.00. The blunt ‘lockdown as strategy’ should still keep transmission rates low, hence the hope, but that’s also locked in sub-optimal outcomes, long avoidable (and still remediable to some extent).

      Outcomes science isn’t linked to standards, nor interested in crowning them gold, it looks to intended outcomes, with execution unconstrained by artificial self-limitations.

      Does that all mean we are trying to do our best but our response has been limited by our budget , immediately being able to get a huge supply of tests developed for Covid-19 , the logistics of testing extensively and quickly on a large scale , the accuracy of said tests , the speed of getting those test results back quickly enough to formulate policy on the hoof and still not put a foot wrong.
      Not to mention a day is a long time in a pandemic.
      Once we didn’t shut that border immediately without testing , quarantining and the whole nine yards we were always playing catch up.
      Many countries all over the world in that situation unfortunately.

      Nope. Our response was constrained by none of those things, and remains unconstrained by any of them.

      So as a small island nation your contention is that our lockdown strategy is becoming a major over-reaction but if we had somehow managed to initiate a testing regime far , far in excess of anything else attempted , let alone achieved by any other country , big or small , that would not have been.?

      Nope, both counts. Lockdown became necessary. All-population testing has also been done at smaller scale, successfully eradicating the virus. And testing on the sort of scale that NZ could do has already been done by at least 4 countries, but they can’t get the same benefits as NZ at that scale because we’re much smaller. And testing at scale has been done by at least 13 countries where if NZ matched any of them we’d already be past Iceland currently the leader. Yet, unlike them NZ is in the perfect Goldilocks zone, big enough to be able to do it just like bigger countries but small enough where others reach only a small percentage we cover everyone. Just the right zone where results deliver optimal health and economic outcomes for all Kiwis, plus the benefits for all countries of the world’s first all-pop testing, and the global boost it gives for vaccine development.

      Curious, as a nation, we’re (rightly) proud of being first in the world in 1893, but constantly come up with countless arguments never to be first again.

      Testing on any scale is just one tool in the toolbox. Certainly the more the better.
      It is important to remember that testing is like the W.O.F. on your car. It is only really valid the moment he slaps it on the windscreen. It is not a guarantee for the next 6 months.
      Same with Covid testing , you could be tested in the morning showing clear but you could come into contact and contract the virus on the way home when you stop to buy a bottle of milk. That is before your sample has even been lab. evaluated.
      For testing to be the holy grail you would essentially have to test the whole population on a pretty regular basis. Daily ?
      I don’t believe any country is claiming these sorts of numbers.
      Iceland is a bit of an outlier due to its’ very low population.

      Happy to engage with any meaningful discussion, critique, and straight up criticism, and to ignore constant passive aggressive, but replying to continual misinterpretation, intentionally misrepresentative strawman argumentative, and manipulative selection to suit an agenda, hiding behind anonymity, is getting tiresome. This is my last response accordingly.

      Testing is no holy grail, nor is lockdown, nor expressly disregarding other options outside “the narrative” unchanged despite changed science and circumstances, nor ignoring many other sciences. (Even Dr Fauci said he’s no economist, and advises on only one element, and impliedly that leaders must draw from much more than health science for informed, effective, decision making).

      As I have said many times regarding all-population testing, it should be cycled, maybe a 7-10 day repeat, so the fanciful WOF hypothetical is far more likely under the current scenario (testing only 5k/day and expressly not the main spreaders in the other 4.8m) than under all-population testing, and becomes de minimus after a few cycles. The Italian case study eliminated the virus in 2x 9-day cycles.

      In NZ, all-population testing would also counter Maori/Pacific inequities proactively and immediately, and socio-economic inequities (from higher risks in crowded housing, blue-collar vs white collar work-from-home risk differentials, etc), all of which is exacerbated when L3/L2 lockdown is ‘the’ strategy.

      Long lockdowns in L4/L3 can also technically eliminate the virus, but at a much, much higher cost economically and, tragi-ironically, risks worse health outcomes, for reasons also long explained, including greater uncertainties than in combination with a well-designed testing regime.

      Sorry Ron
      I thought when I filled in profile it was public.
      I will check my settings.

markscreaminggoosearmstrong April 20, 2020 at 9:53 pm

I always recall what the other humourist Sir Robert Muldoon said about Kiwis going to work in Australia. I think he was right.

Yes, virtually no dissent from nz media, or relevant information.

normal mortality runs at 8k per million p.a. heart problems mortality 3k per million p.a. cancer similar. americam suicides post the 1907, 1920, 1930 recessions ran about 150 per million p.a. covid death rate runs at maybe a normal year mortality all up, but completely focused at elderly with existing conditions…. so us folks will likely sensibly choose to stay level 4, the rest of nz might as well go level 1 or 2 now.

dont expect a vaccine for sars-2 in 12 months… seen one for sars-1? 18 years and counting. lets get on with life as best we can, just wearing a mask ( for politeness ).

Too right. Now looking at moving to Australia at some stage. Can foresee how this is going to end and it is not well. Don’t want to be subjected to the high taxes NZ will be faced with because of this government’s actions.
Have worked hard enough to get to where we are without having our savings eroded by incomptency of this situation.

Thanks for the column Bob, it’s one bright light in this farcical display by Ardern and her Labour Party.

markscreaminggoosearmstrong April 21, 2020 at 1:05 pm

Sir Bob,
Can you please direct me to your article as I am unable to find it and you seemed to rely on it in your rebuttal of my comment:

You wrote:
“on this site way back in February I did write a piece titled “Recession or Depression” about our future economic crisis and pending mass unemployment through loss of our principal export earner, namely tourism.”

Thank you in advance.
Yours in mutual Loud Honking and fondness for wit
Mark Armstrong

Indeed. I’m thinking of the Australian option myself. What will keep me here is a collapsed housing market.

From Tasmania, I’ll watch your prediction with interest

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