31 Jan 2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins reveals Cabinet reshuffle

3:31 pm on 31 January 2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has announced Jan Tinetti, Michael Wood, Ayesha Verrall, Willie Jackson and Kiri Allan are being shifted up the Labour rankings, with Nanaia Mahuta and Andrew Little dropping down.

Tinetti, a former principal who has been Associate Education Minister, picks up the portfolio from Hipkins and moves up from number 14 to six.

Hipkins said she could address the challenges facing education, which as the former minister he said was core to New Zealand's success.

"Jan Tinetti is uniquely placed to address the post-Covid challenges our education system has faced and to get our kids back into the classroom and learning."

Jan Tinetti

Jan Tinetti Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Wood moves from 15th to seventh and becomes Minister for Auckland.

Verrall becomes Health Minister and moves from 18 to 8.

"An infectious diseases expert, she brings almost 20 years of knowledge of how our health system works and of course how it can be improved," Hipkins said.

Jackson moves from number 13 to nine, retaining his existing portfolios and gaining an associate social development (Māori employment) role.

Hipkins said he was confident Jackson understood the broadcasting and media portfolio and when a decision was made on whether to continue with the RNZ-TVNZ merger, "I'm absolutely confident that Willie will implement it".

Labour MP Willie Jackson

Willie Jackson Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Allan shoots from number 16 to 10, taking on the Regional Development portfolio.

Mahuta drops from eighth to 16th, retaining Foreign Affairs and picking up Disarmament and Arms Control but losing Local Government to Kieran McAnulty, who also rises from being an unranked minister outside Cabinet to 18th on the list.

McAnulty also picks up Minister Responsible for Rural Communities and becomes Deputy Leader of the House.

Andrew Little drops from sixth to 13th on the list, losing Health but gaining Defence and Public Service. Hipkins said he had not lost confidence in Little, who he said had made clear he would support whatever decision was taken.

Labour MP Andrew Little

Andrew Little Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Little had done a fantastic job of leading the health reforms, he said, but that was largely done and Verrall understood health delivery "better than just about anybody".

Peeni Henare drops from 12 to 15, picking up ACC from Deputy PM Carmel Sepuloni, Tourism from Nash, and an Associate Environment role.

"The balance that I've been trying to strike here is to make sure that we're providing opportunities to bring some of the new talent forward onto the front bench, naturally that means some people move back off the front bench, that does not mean in any way that I don't have full confidence in them," Hipkins said.

Nash - unmoved in the rankings - retains Police, with Hipkins saying he "did indicate a certain affinity" and with a number of things in that role he doesn't want to see a loss of focus on "I know that Stuart will be right in there on day one".

Ginny Andersen and Barbara Edmonds both become Cabinet ministers, with Duncan Webb, Willow-Jean Prime, Rino Tirikatene and Deborah Russell joining Meka Whaitiri as ministers outside Cabinet.

"Today's reshuffle highlights the depth of talent in the Labour team," Hipkins said.

"I do want to thank those ministers who are departing for their incredible service, so to Poto Williams, Dr David Clark, Aupito William Sio, Phil Twyford and of course Jacinda Ardern, a very warm thank you."

None of those who had dropped significantly in the rankings had indicated they would not stand again in the coming election, Hipkins said

He said Phil Twyford was not a minister in the current lineup but had not indicated he planned to retire.

"He was very philosophical about it, I think Phil also recognises the need for some renewal in the lineup."

Hipkins was not taking on any new portfolios, and said that was because he was "not interested in a symbolic gesture, my job as Prime Minister will be to lead the entirety of the government's programme and that's what I intend to do".

Focus on economy

Hipkins said as the recent flooding had highlighted, New Zealanders wanted the government focused on the key issues affecting them. He said while a Cabinet reshuffle was announced last year, the decisions announced today were his own.

He wanted to demonstrate the "depth of our talent" and balance stability with renewal, he said.

Grant Robertson, who drops one place to fourth, loses the Infrastructure role but becomes Leader of the House - a role vacated by Hipkins and passed to him in an acting capacity after Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson preparing to speak to media after releasing the half year economic and fiscal update.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Hipkins said Robertson had been a steady hand on the economy, and was being given the time and support to apply his full focus to fighting inflation.

"He has seen New Zealand households and businesses through the greatest economic shock since the Great Depression," he said.

"His steady hand on the economy has ensured that we've got one of the lowest unemployment rates ever and that government debt levels are amongst the lowest in the developed world ... New Zealand has growth stronger than most other economies that we compare ourselves to."

Hipkins said he recognised "fairly early on in the piece" the need for an Auckland minister.

"My engagements with the business community last week indicated that actually some clarity and focus and coordination of our efforts in Auckland would actually be quite useful, so I'd already started thinking about that and of course the floods occurred right at the time when the reshuffle was right at the front of my mind.

"Auckland is a major economic powerhouse for New Zealand and as I said ... everyone across New Zealand needs Auckland to thrive if we're going to thrive as a country."

He rated Wood to handle that responsibility alongside his other big portfolios including Immigration and Transport.

"He's a proud Aucklander, he's as associate minister of Finance he's going to be right in a lot of those big economic discussions which of course Auckland is a big consideration in."

Labour MP Michael Wood

Michael Wood Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

"In my conversations with Michael he indicated he wanted to keep the portfolios that he has ... I wanted him to play a bigger role in the economic team and clearly with Auckland he's the logical person to lead that."

He said the government heard loud and clear many New Zealanders and families were struggling.

"You want us focused on what most matters to you and this Cabinet are the people to do that.

"This reshuffle is just the first step. Over the coming days and weeks you will see us put our words into action with policies to support New Zealanders by reprioritising existing programmes."

Foreign Affairs and Three Waters

Hipkins said Mahuta's "portfolio load has been reduced to focus on Foreign Affairs".

"I do expect she will be out and about travelling more, when she took on the portfolio in the first place she wasn't able to travel, and so had other portfolio responsibilities in addition to that whilst the border was closed."

He thought everybody accepted she would have to travel more than she had been.

Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta

Nanaia Mahuta Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Asked about the Three Waters project, he said he had already indicated he would take a close look at that and "we haven't made those decisions yet, but it is I think an acknowledgement that I want her to be focused on Foreign Affairs and that three waters portfolio and that three waters work is going to require quite a lot of attention in the next little while".

He said Three Waters is "not going to be scrapped altogether".

"As I've said there is an absolute pressing need for reform in this area, we have between $130b and $180b worth of investment required in our water infrastructure across our country in the next 30 years. If we don't undertake reform the cost that is going to impose on households in terms of the rates increases they will face will be significant.

"It will be a cost-of-living issue so we do need to have reform. Now, we're going to look closely to make sure we've got those reforms right and I'm not going to pre-empt the discussions that we're going to have around that."

Sepuloni picks up an Associate Foreign Affairs (Pacific Peoples) role. Hipkins said he saw Pacific engagement in the region as a particularly important priority for New Zealand.

"Our Pacific neighbours are incredibly important to us. Will they see more of us? Absolutely."

Cabinet lineup:

  • 1. Chris Hipkins: Prime Minister, National Security and Intelligence, Ministerial Services
  • 2. Carmel Sepuloni: Deputy PM, Social Development and Employment, Arts, Culture and Heritage, Associate Foreign Affairs (Pacific Region)
  • 3. Kelvin Davis: Māori-Crown Relations, Children, Corrections, Associate Education (Māori)
  • 4. Grant Robertson: Finance, Sport and Recreation, Leader of the House
  • 5. Megan Woods: Housing, Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, Building and Construction, Associate Finance
  • 6. Jan Tinetti: Education, Women, Child Poverty Reduction
  • 7. Michael Wood: Immigration, Transport, Workplace Relations and Safety, Auckland, Associate Finance
  • 8. Ayesha Verrall: Health, Research, Science and Innovation
  • 9. Willie Jackson: Broadcasting and Media, Māori Development, Associate ACC, Associate Social Development (Māori)
  • 10. Kiri Allan: Justice, Regional Development, Associate Transport
  • 11. Stuart Nash: Economic Development, Forestry, Police, Oceans and Fisheries
  • 12. Damien O'Connor: Agriculture, Biosecurity, Land Information, Trade and Export Growth
  • 13. Andrew Little: Defence, GCSB and NZSIS, Public Service, Treaty Negotiations, Royal Commission into the terrorist attack on the Christchurch mosques
  • 14. David Parker: Attorney-General, Environment, Revenue, Associate Finance
  • 15. Peeni Henare: ACC, Tourism, Whānau Ora, Associate Environment, Associate Health (Māori)
  • 16. Nanaia Mahuta: Foreign Affairs, Disarmament and Arms Control, Associate Māori Development
  • 17. Priyanca Radhakrishnan: Community and Voluntary, Disability Issues, Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities, Associate Social Development and Employment, Associate Workplace Relations and Safety
  • 18. Kieran McAnulty: Emergency Management, Local Government, Racing, Rural Communities, Deputy Leader of the House
  • 19. Ginny Andersen: Digital Economy and Communications, Seniors, Small Business, Associate Immigrations, Associate Treaty Negotiations
  • 20. Barbara Edmonds: Internal Affairs, Pacific Peoples, Associate Health (Pacific Peoples), Associate Housing

Ministers outside Cabinet

  • Meka Whaitiri: Customs, Food Safety, Veterans, Associate Agriculture (Animal Welfare), Associate Statistics
  • Duncan Webb: Commerce and Consumer Affairs, State-owned Enterprises
  • Willow-Jean Prime: Conservation, Youth, Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage, Associate Health
  • Rino Tirikatene: Courts, Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth
  • Deborah Russell: Statistics, Earthquake Commission, Associate Justice, Associate Revenue

Co-operation Agreement Ministers

  • Marama Davidson: Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, Associate Housing (Homelessness)
  • James Shaw: Climate Change, Associate Environment (Biodiversity)

Parliamentary Under-secretaries

  • Jo Luxton: Agriculture, Education
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