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Now for the fight-back . . .


It is time for shovels to hit the turf, both for the Labour-led Government and the whole country as the fight-back from the impacts of responding to the Covid-19 virus begins in earnest this week.

After the biggest-spending Budget in living memory, the Government now has to deliver.

With $50 billion committed to Covid response and relief, the Government has made $3 billion available as an initial investment in shovel-ready infrastructure projects around the country, to help move a battered economy into forward gear.

Seeing renewed activity and work will lift people's morale just as winter bites, but the fact is that winter weather will hamper major construction projects.

The Government has to show it has things well under way in time for September's election. The hiccups that often seem to strike major projects — and just look at what happened to Gisborne District Council last week — will provide fertile ground for the National Party to attack the Government.

National will also focus on the prospect of a tax rise . . . it might be cynical to say they would welcome one for their election prospects. Yesterday leader Simon Bridges was calling for the next increase in the petrol tax, due in July, to be scrapped.

It has been National Party policy for decades to accuse Labour of being the tax-and-spend party and to present itself as the one best able to handle the economy. Polls even suggest a majority of New Zealanders agree with them.

Bridges has been in an invidious position throughout the seven-week lockdown. He would not have wanted to appear too critical of a Government facing one of the biggest challenges in the country's history; and when he was, he faced a social media backlash.

Now, however, to use a sporting analogy from boxing, he has to come out of his corner throwing punches while making sure none of them are below the belt. He is still up against a personally-popular Prime Minister who has won plaudits internationally for her response to the crisis.

Next summer will be a crucial one for the country. By then we will be hoping to see real progress, hardships eased as much as possible, and a clear future.

But the virus has not gone away, and most experts say it will take at least a year to develop a vaccine.

The economic challenges will linger on for years but for now people are enjoying a return to some normality, and catching up with friends and colleagues again.