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New Zealand Herald

Cabinet Announcement - Greens Get 7 - Civic Theatre Row - Auckland - Hinewehi Mohi - House Taken For Fine - Inflation Review - Takapuna Phallic Symbol - Health Minister - Burglars - Maori Audit - Editorial: Too Many Ministers

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CABINET ANNOUNCEMENT: Helen Clark has signalled the limits of Alliance influence in the Coalition by unveiling a cabinet that diverts her partner's energies into creating jobs while Labour keeps an iron grip on how the economy is run. Yesterday's allocation of portfolios within the Coalition gave Labour's Michael Cullen control of the principal levers of economic and fiscal policy in the senior role of Minister of Finance.

GREENS GET 7: The Greens have almost certainly won a seventh seat after final party votes were counted early today, further weakening the combined strength of the Labour-Alliance Coalition. Once official allocations are made, the Greens' foreign affairs and defence spokesman, Keith Locke, is expected to become his party's seventh list MP, while Labour is expected to lose Auckland engineers union organiser Lynne Pillay.

CIVIC THEATRE ROW: Allegations of a cover-up and "commercialism gone mad" rent the Auckland Town Hall late last night as the city council wrestled over how to extricate itself from the Civic Theatre reopening fiasco. Mayor Christine Fletcher described as "appalling misjudgment" the decision of the theatre management to hire it out for an exclusive America's Cup ball before the official opening.

AUCKLAND: Auckland was yesterday thrown a heavy-duty political lifeline in its struggle to unchoke its roads and save its waterways from the ravages of decaying infrastructure. The metropolis has emerged as a big winner from the allocation of ministerial jobs, with Prime Minister-designate Helen Clark creating a special portfolio to guide her through Auckland's morass of problems.

HINEWEHI MOHI: A little girl in hospital, stricken with cerebral palsy, reaches out and holds hands with a photographer, a stranger to her. It seems to typify what her mother, singer Hinewehi Mohi, says is her daughter's resilience.

HOUSE TAKEN FOR FINE: A Taumarunui man will today become the first person in New Zealand to have his house forcibly sold for failing to pay reparations ordered by a court. The man was convicted and sentenced to nine years' jail last year. He was also ordered to pay $25,000 reparations to his victim.

INFLATION REVIEW: Incoming Finance Minister Michael Cullen has signalled that he wants the Reserve Bank to ease strict inflation targets if the economy is growing. Dr Cullen held initial talks yesterday with Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash over rewriting the bank's policy target agreement with the Government, which requires Dr Brash to keep inflation between 0 and 3 per cent.

TAKAPUNA PHALLIC SYMBOL: All Takapuna Rotary Club wants to do is fly a flag at Devonport to restore national pride. But the initiative has drawn flak from Ports of Auckland, worried about shipping, iwi who say it is culturally insensitive and one resident who likens it to a phallic symbol.

HEALTH MINISTER: The Minister of Health, Annette King, promises to move swiftly to boost immunisation rates and improve health in South Auckland, to extend the life of the Mental Health Commission and disband the Health Funding Authority. Speaking shortly after taking over the Health portfolio, Mrs King said she had already met Ministry of Health officials to discuss South Auckland, and would devise a special strategy to deal with its problems.

BURGLARS: Burglars beware, the new cabinet ministers responsible for law and order are gunning for you. Incoming Police Minister George Hawkins and Justice Minister Phil Goff have both vowed that they will give priority to the crime which affects New Zealanders the most - but police are worst at solving - after being sworn in today.

MAORI AUDIT: Fears that money given for Maori development has disappeared or been rashly spent have prompted the Government to appoint two ministers to control the process. Prime Minister-designate Helen Clark named Tariana Turia and Parekura Horomia Associate Ministers of Maori Affairs with the specific job of tracking spending and ensuring it is used to best meet Maori needs.

EDITORIAL - TOO MANY MINISTERS: It is not until people are put into position that the character of a new Government begins to show. The composition of the cabinet is practically the first governing act of the Prime Minister-designate and her deputy. They have produced a list of few surprises, little excitement and one major disappointment - the excessive number on an Executive perch. The line-up is no larger than any since the last Labour Government expanded the ministry, with five or six portfolios outside the cabinet as well as 20 within it. But this time Labour campaigned fiercely against extravagance in the public service and might have been expected to set an example. We could also have hoped that Helen Clark, a keen administrative thinker, might have produced a more interesting and imaginative allocation of tasks. But the assignments are largely traditional and have gone to the predicted people. Even the pointless post of Treasurer, created for the last coalition, survives in tandem with the finance portfolio. Michael Cullen should adopt whichever of those hats he prefers and discard the other.

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