Report from BusinessDesk by Pattrick Smellie
Prime Minister John Key welcomed Nick Smith back into the Cabinet in a reshuffle in which he has also sacked the Labour and Conservation Minister, Kate Wilkinson, and Energy and Housing Minister Phil Heatley.
He also relieved Associate Education Minister Craig Foss of his responsibility for the Novopay system for paying teachers, putting that in the hands of Cabinet fix-it man and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.
Smith returns to Cabinet as Minister of Housing and Conservation, while relatively junior Minister Nathan Guy will become Minister of Primary Industries, replacing David Carter, who will become Parliament’s Speaker to replace Lockwood Smith, who is to become High Commissioner in London.
Perhaps the biggest winner is Simon Bridges. A novice Associate Minister of Climate Change since last year, Bridges will add the heavyweight Energy and Labour portfolios and becomes a minister inside Cabinet.
Chris Tremain will become Minister of Local Government, a portfolio that Smith might have expected to pick up, having been architect of major reforms now occurring.
Two other big winners are Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye and Senior Whip Michael Woodhouse. Kaye takes Food Safety, Youth Affairs and Civil Defence and Associate Education Minister. Woodhouse will be a minister outside Cabinet with responsibility for the Immigration and Veterans Affairs portfolios.
Foss picks up Consumer Affairs and keeps his commerce portfolio, while dropping Associate Education, where he was nominally in charge of the botched Novopay implementation. Hekia Parata maintains the Education portfolio.
News from NZ Government
Prime Minister John Key today announced a series of changes to the National-led Government’s Cabinet, refreshing a Ministerial team which is firmly focused on delivering results for New Zealanders.
Mr Key confirmed the Government’s nominee for Speaker to replace the departing Lockwood Smith will be long-serving National MP and Cabinet Minister David Carter.
“I have taken the opportunity presented by the change of Speaker to look at the Cabinet line-up as a whole, in the context of the Government’s priorities,” said Mr Key. “As we begin a new year I am optimistic about the progress we can make, while being mindful of the challenges created, in particular, by the uncertain international economic environment. New Zealanders expect their elected Government to get on, and not only do what it has promised to do, but to do so with a sense of urgency and purpose, with real energy and new thinking along the way.
“It is in this context I have decided to make changes to the Ministry.”
Two other Ministers will also be leaving Cabinet on 29 January – Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson.
“Phil and Kate have both made a real contribution to the Government in their four years as Ministers and I’d like to thank them for that,” Mr Key says. “I have made the judgement that it is time for fresh energy and ideas, and for other members of our talented 59-strong caucus to be given an opportunity.”
Returning to Cabinet is Nick Smith, who will take on the Housing and Conservation portfolios. Mr Key says Dr Smith will bring his trademark energy to housing market and social housing issues, which are of real public interest.
“I have also asked Social Development Minister Paula Bennett to work with Nick as Associate Housing Minister, reflecting the strong links between these two areas. Tariana Turia will remain as Associate Minister and a part of that housing team.”
Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye will be appointed to Cabinet where she will become Minister for Food Safety, Youth Affairs and Civil Defence. She will also be Associate Education Minister, reflecting her work as Chair of the Education select committee.
Senior Whip Michael Woodhouse will be the third new Minister, serving outside Cabinet as Immigration and Veterans Affairs’ Minister as well as Associate Transport Minister.
“I’d like to congratulate Nikki and Michael on their promotions, which are both well deserved,” Mr Key says.
The remaining position inside Cabinet will be filled by Simon Bridges, who will be promoted from outside Cabinet and take on the Labour and Energy and Resources portfolios.
“Simon has had a very good first year as a Minister and is ready to step up and take on more responsibility,” Mr Key says.
Nathan Guy will pick up the Primary Industries portfolio to be vacated by David Carter, with Jo Goodhew assisting him as Associate Minister.
Chris Tremain will be appointed as Local Government Minister and is well placed to work with the sector on the Government’s well-advanced reforms.
Mr Key says he had also decided to make a change in relation to Novopay.
“I share the concerns of teachers and principals at continuing problems in the operation of Novopay, and fixing this as quickly as possible is a priority,” he says. “A fresh set of eyes is needed and I have asked Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce to take on this responsibility.”
The change will be done through a transfer of responsibility to Mr Joyce under section 7 of the Constitution Act.
“Getting Novopay working as it should may take some time, given what appears to be the systemic issues involved. I can assure teachers that we want to get Novopay sorted as soon as possible.
“With this change and Nikki Kaye’s appointment, there is no need for Mr Foss to remain as Associate Education Minister. I have instead asked him to pick up the role of Minister of Consumer Affairs, which will link in with his existing responsibilities as Commerce Minister.”
Mr Key says there are also two notable promotions in terms of Ministerial rankings in the Cabinet changes – with Jonathan Coleman rising to 10, and Amy Adams to 15.
The resignations of Mr Carter, Mr Heatley and Ms Wilkinson will take effect on 29 January, and all the other changes will take effect on Thursday 31 January, when the Governor-General appoints the new Ministers, and the necessary paperwork will have been completed.
Mr Key says it is anticipated that a new Senior Whip will be elected at National’s first caucus meeting of the year on 29 January 2013.
“This refreshed Ministerial team is ready to continue the Government’s focus on its four key priorities for this term – responsibly managing the Government’s finances, building a more competitive and productive economy, delivering better public services within fiscal restraints, and supporting the rebuilding of Christchurch,” Mr Key says.
“I will have more to say about how we intend to meet these priorities in coming days.”