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Ardern reshuffles Woods to housing czar

Ardern reshuffles Woods to housing czar; no demotion for Twyford

By Pattrick Smellie

June 27 (BusinessDesk) - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made Megan Woods her new housing minister in a bid to cauterise the political damage done by Phil Twyford’s leadership of the struggling KiwiBuild programme. Twyford remains in charge of urban development.

Kris Faafoi, widely expected to move from a minister outside Cabinet to one inside also picks up an associate housing role, in a reshuffle today, creating a three-minister team that will become responsible for delivering the government’s housing programme.

Jenny Salesa, the minister for building and construction, retains those portfolios and remains effectively a fourth member of the team. She picks up customs from Faafoi, who inherited it after Meka Whaitiri was sacked from Cabinet last year.

While losing half his housing and urban development portfolio could be seen as a demotion, Twyford picks up the powerhouse economic development portfolio, effectively making him the minister working most closely with the minister of regional economic development, NZ First’s Shane Jones.

Economic development has been held until now by David Parker, who will be freed up to spend more time on trade negotiations and water quality by retaining the trade and environment portfolios.

The only newcomer to the Cabinet is Poto Williams, a Christchurch-based MP since 2013, who will become a minister outside Cabinet with responsibilities for the community and voluntary sector and associate ministerial responsibilities for social development, immigration and Christchurch regeneration. Her elevation satisfies in part the need Ardern faced to promote both women and Maori to ministerial positions.

Faafoi keeps his broadcasting and communications portfolios and adds government digital services.

Ardern acknowledged the government had struggled with KiwiBuild, which held out the promise of 100,000 affordable homes being built for first-home buyers within a decade. Eighteen months into the life of her administration, it has yet to complete 150 such homes, some were already being built anyway, and some have not sold.

A “fresh pair of eyes” was needed, which Woods – already Minister for Energy and Resources and Science and Innovation – would bring.

There was no change to the rankings for ministers already inside Cabinet in a reshuffle Ardern always promised would be limited in scope.

A couple of backbenchers get an upwards bump. Finance and expenditure committee chair and under-secretary Michael Wood becomes senior government whip to replace departing veteran MP Ruth Dyson, who was nominated to take up Poto Williams' role as an assistant Speaker.

Deborah Russell, a tax expert, moves from chairing the environment select committee to chairing the finance and expenditure select committee to replace Wood.

Other minor changes see Finance Minister Grant Robertson become responsible for the Earthquake Commission, Peeni Henare becomes Minister of Civil Defence, and a small number of associate delegations also change.

(BusinessDesk)

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