Chris Hipkins deals a firm hand in reshuffle

The Prime Minister and his Deputy: Chris Hipkins with Carmel Sepuloni (Pool)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, January 31, 2023

Chris Hipkins has shown his firm hand in his Cabinet reshuffle announced earlier today (January 31, 2023) in Wellington.

There were a few upsets, many level-offs, and some promotions, but overall, it was a smooth transition and Mr Hipkins can hope to get along with governance.

He is also the Minister of National Security and Intelligence, traditionally held by the Prime Minister, while the addition of Ministerial Services to his responsibilities will provide an overview of the movements of his ministerial colleagues.

Mr Hipkins said that in distributing ministerial portfolios among the members of the Labour Caucus, he has strived to strike a balance between the old and the new.

“I have attempted to ensure that we are providing opportunities to bring some of the new talents to the front bench, which means that some people move to the back bench. But that does not mean in any way that I do not have full confidence in them,” he said.

Ministers up and down

Even as Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation on January 19, 2023, her Deputy, Grant Robertson said that he will not contest the post of Leader, thereby forfeiting the chance of becoming the Prime Minister.

Mr Hipkins has retained his role as Finance Minister and placed him in additional charge as Leader of the House. But Mr Robertson has lost the Infrastructure portfolio.

Mr Hipkins praised Mr Robertson’s handling of the economy and is positioning him to tackle the challenges of fighting inflation.

“He has seen New Zealand households and businesses through the greatest economic shock since the Great Depression. His steady hand on the economy has helped in achieving one of the lowest rates of unemployment and government debt in the world. New Zealand has stronger growth than most other comparable economies,” he said.

The biggest surprise in the reshuffle was the demotion of Andrew Little from the sixth position to the 13th and the removal of the Health portfolio from him. He has been entrusted with the Defence and Public Service ministries.

Mr Little has not been successful or popular since he handed over the reins of the Labour Party to his Deputy Jacinda Ardern about two months before the 2017 general election. Public health delivery continues to suffer and critics say that the Health Ministry has suffered under Mr Little.


Dr Verrall, Wood promoted

Mr Hipkins had scored high as the Covid-19 Minister and in appointing Dr Ayesha Verrall as the Health Minister, he has signalled that he expects better performance. Dr Verrall, who had fronted the media to provide Covid-19 information, has been lifted from 18th to eighth position.

Mr Hipkins paid compliment, perhaps a left-handed one when he said that Mr Little has done ‘a fantastic job’ of leading health reforms, ‘which have been completed.’

He said that Dr Verrall understood the challenges of health services, “better than just about anybody.’

The upgrade of Michael Wood from Position 15 to seven is well-deserved; for as the Minister of Transport, he has been overseeing some of the toughest and controversial infrastructure projects around the country. As the Workplace Relations and Safety Minister, he has ushered in a number of reforms relating to Fair Pay Agreements and a safe environment for workers.

Recently, as Immigration Minister, Mr Wood opened up the Partnership and Parent Visa categories, facilitating families to reunite. He has also revamped the immigration system, enabling speedier processing of visitor and student visas.

Mr Hipkins has rewarded him as the Minister for Auckland.

Mahuta down, McAnulty and Tinetti up

Nanaia Mahuta has also been downgraded, from eight to 16, and although she will retain the Foreign Affairs portfolio, she has lost the role as Local Government Minister. In essence, she will no longer be responsible for Three Waters Reforms, one of the most unpopular legislative moves of the current Labour government. Mr Hipkins has promised to revisit the contentious Bill.

Ms Mahuta has been given the Ministry of Disarmament and Arms Control, held until recently by Phil Twyford, who has exited Cabinet with this reshuffle.

Kieran McAnulty, who was until now a Minister outside the Cabinet, has been made Minister of Local Government in addition to Rural Communities. He has also been appointed Deputy Leader of the House, moving up from Number 18 on the Labour Caucus List.

Jan Tinetti is another beneficiary of the Hipkins government.

She succeeds Mr Hipkins as Education Minister after being his Associate Minister.

Wellington Reader Selva Ramasami said that she is cut for the role.

“Before entering politics, Ms Tinetti was Principal of Merivale School, one of Tauranga’s most financially disadvantaged communities. Throughout her career in education, she fiercely advocated at a national level for equal educational opportunities. After seeing families struggling in her local community, she campaigned for them to access everything that they need to thrive.

“Ms Tinetti’s entry into politics stemmed from her belief that the government has a role to play in ensuring that all New Zealanders have access to the services that they need and help them to be the best they can be,” he said.

Portfolios exchanged

Peeni Henare, dropped to Position 15 from 12, has been appointed Minister for ACC, Minister for Tourism (taken from Stuart Nash), Minister for Whanau Ora and Associate Minister for the Environment and Associate Minister of Health (Māori Health).

Mr Nash has taken back the role of Police Minister from Mr Hipkins.

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

Among the outgoing Ministers are Poto Williams, Dr David Clark, Aupito William Sio, Phil Twyford and Jacinda Ardern.

Auckland floods and deluge of ideas

The torrential rain and the resultant floods in Auckland and parts of Northland on January 26 and January 27, 2023 highlighted the need for better preparedness.

Soon after being sworn as Prime Minister, Mr Hipkins attended a meeting of the Auckland Business Chamber with Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni on January 26, 2023.

The floods brought him back to Auckland on January 27.

“My engagements with the business community last week indicated that some clarity and focus and coordination of our efforts in Auckland would be useful. I have started thinking about that and the floods occurred when I was busy with the Cabinet reshuffle. Auckland is a major economic powerhouse for New Zealand and everyone across New Zealand needs Auckland to thrive if we are going to thrive as a country,” he said.

Mr Hipkins admitted that most New Zealanders are struggling to make ends meet.

“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,” Mr Hipkins said addressing a media conference.

Chris Hipkins, the young man from Lower Hutt has risen to the higher echelons of power and fame. His ability to survive political storms will be tested in the coming weeks, with the ultimate verdict to be pronounced on the night of October 14, 2023 after the general election.

Two days after becoming the Prime Minister Mr Hipkins surprised his political adversaries as well as his Party colleagues by leading in two major Polls- the One News Kantar Poll and the Newshub Opinion Poll- as the Prime Minister and by returning the Labour Party to the lead position for the first time since January 2022.

Mr Hipkins has won the battle for recognition. He should not lose the peace that follows it.

Chris Hipkins and his Council of Ministers (Filed by our Reporter Dr Malini Yugendran)

Chris Hipkins
Prime Minister 
Minister for National Security and Intelligence
Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services   

Carmel Sepuloni
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Social Development and  Employment
Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs (Pacific Region)

Kelvin Davis
Minister for Māori Crown Relations:  Te Arawhiti
Minister for Children
Minister of Corrections
Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education)

Grant Robertson
Minister of Finance
Minister for Sport and Recreation
Leader of the House

Megan Woods
Minister of Housing
Minister for Infrastructure
Minister of Energy and Resources
Minister for Building and Construction
Associate Minister of Finance

Jan Tinetti
Minister of Education
Minister for Women
Minister for Child Poverty Reduction

 Michael Wood
Minister of Immigration
Minister of Transport
Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety
Minister for Auckland
Associate Minister of Finance

Ayesha Verrall
Minister of Health
Minister of Research, Science and Innovation

Willie Jackson
Minister for Broadcasting and Media
Minister for Māori Development
Associate Minister for ACC
Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (Māori Employment)

Kiri Allan
Minister of Justice
Minister for Regional Development
Associate Minister of Transport

Stuart Nash
Minister for Economic Development
Minister of Forestry
Minister of Police
Minister for Oceans and Fisheries

Damien O’Connor
Minister of Agriculture
Minister for Biosecurity
Minister for Land Information
Minister for Trade and Export Growth

Andrew Little
Minister of Defence
Minister Responsible for the GCSB
Minister Responsible for the NZSIS
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations

David Parker
Minister for the Environment
Minister of Revenue
Associate Minister of Finance

Peeni Henare
Minister for ACC
Minister of Tourism
Minister for Whānau Ora
Associate Minister for the Environment
Associate Minister of Health (Māori Health)

Nanaia Mahuta
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control
Associate Minister for Māori Development

Priyanca Radhakrishnan
Minister for the Community and Voluntary  Sector
Minister for Disability Issues
Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities
Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment
Associate Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety

Kieran McAnulty
Minister for Emergency Management
Minister of Local Government
Minister for Racing
Minister for Rural Communities
Deputy Leader of the House

Ginny Andersen
Minister for the Digital Economy and  Communications
Minister for Seniors
Minister for Small Business
Associate Minister of Immigration
Associate Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations

Barbara Edmonds
Minister of Internal Affairs
Minister for Pacific Peoples
Associate Minister of Health (Pacific Peoples)
Associate Minister of Housing



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