Espiner: 2013's outstayed its welcome. What's next?
It's almost time to be out with the old and in with the new, so a bit of crystal ball gazing could set a forecast trend.
Let's be honest, 2013 has outstayed its welcome. True, it gave us Lorde, Lydia Ko and a royal baby, but it also delivered a killer typhoon, Len Brown and the Harlem Shake.
According to Facebook, the new Pope was the top global topic of 2013, proving social media can be a forum for serious discussion. But then Miley Cyrus also made the top 10, along with twerking - the most-Googled search term of the year. No, I didn't know what it meant either.
So rather than gaze fondly into the rear-view mirror and risk driving off a cliff, fiscal or otherwise - or even worse, breaching the 4km police speed tolerance these holidays - this columnist's eyes are focused firmly forwards.
The new year promises so much: a buoyant economy, the "real" football world cup, two decent summers in a row and, according to Wikipedia, a commercial cure for baldness. Whether it will deliver on any of these is obviously an open question.
But here are my picks for 2014:
. . .The economy will go gangbusters . . .
All the signs are that 2014 will be the best year for the New Zealand economy in a decade. Treasury is picking 3.6 per cent growth; I reckon it will top 4 per cent, making us the fastest-growing economy in the Western world.
The combination of pent-up demand, the Christchurch rebuild hitting its stride and continuing high levels of immigration will stoke domestic demand, while internationally our commodity prices will soar to record highs. New start-ups will do well on the international stage too.
The dollar will stay very high, certainly above $A.80c and possibly closer to $A.90c. Unemployment will continue to track downward and we'll move back into the black - by considerably more than the $86 million surplus Treasury is predicting.
. . . Forcing up interest rates and cooling the housing market . . .
Reserve Bank Governor will aggressively raise interest rates which will hit highly leveraged home owners hard. Floating rates will end the year a good 2 per cent above their current levels. This, plus the existing brake on first homebuyers, will see house prices flatten and perhaps dip slightly as the market takes a breather.
. . . Neither of which will prompt Len Brown to resign . . .
Auckland Mayor Len Brown will remain in office next year, despite continuing calls for his resignation. He will ignore opinion polls giving him a very low approval rating and instead focus on his transport and Unitary Plan initiatives - which will be largely derailed by a lack of support on Auckland Council.
The rest of the country will continue not to care.
. . . A National MP will be forced to resign for doing something stupid . . .
OK, this is a no-brainer, although it will be difficult to top Aaron Gilmore. But given the number of MPs in the party and the approaching general election, the odds are someone will say or do something silly enough to get them into trouble.
. . . Conservative Party Colin Craig will not resign despite doing something stupid . . .
Craig will undoubtedly put his foot in his mouth many times during 2014, and his supporters will love him for it. Everyone else can go and get stuffed.
. . . Seven Sharp will get the axe . ..
Despite a new format and the best efforts of Mike Hosking and Toni Street, TVNZ will tire of the pretention of having current affairs at 7pm and by mid-year will dump the show and put Home and Away in its place. Ratings will soar, prompting much wailing and gnashing of teeth at TV3, who will wish they thought of it first.
. . . And so will John Banks . . .
The erstwhile ACT Party leader will be found guilty of electoral fraud over a donation to his mayoral fund by the uber-present Kim Dotcom after a very public trial. He will receive only a small fine, since the offence actually isn't very serious - and the punishment he has already received is already disproportionate to the crime.
. . . But we're stuck with Kim Dotcom . . .
The portly German will win his fight to avoid extradition to the United States over criminal copyright infringement, in a major embarrassment for both their government and ours. The US will be forced to unfreeze the $80 million of his money they are still holding, prompting Dotcom to large it up around New Zealand while complaining there isn't enough for rich people to spend their money on.
Nonetheless Dotcom will refuse to leave New Zealand, even after getting his passport back. Fortunately he will decide against standing in the general election.
. . . Who will help Edward Snowden expose more spying scandals . . .
New Zealand will take its place amongst the other Five Eyes nations in being fingered for spying on its neighbours, with the help of information provided to Snowden by Dotcom. Revelations that the GCSB tapped phones in Indonesia, China, and Papua New Guinea will be embarrassing, but not half as embarrassing as documents showing we also spied on Australia.
Snowden, meanwhile, will outstay his welcome in Russia and seek political asylum in Brazil.
. . . None of which will stop National from winning another term . . .
Prime Minister John Key will win a third term in November and will form a government with the assistance of the Conservative Party, despite a series of embarrassments and minor scandals on the campaign trail.
Labour and the Greens will give Key a run for his millions and mount a strong campaign, but in the end voters will pick the devil they know, rather than turfing out a government in economic good times.
Those are my picks for 2014. None should be taken as endorsements or even fervent hopes. See you on the other side.
Sunday Star Times