Government

Twyford loses housing, but stays part of ‘team’ of housing ministers

Phil Twyford has lost the housing portfolio in Cabinet reshuffle, but is still part of a team of housing ministers that includes Megan Woods and Kris Faafoi.

Jacinda Ardern has announced the reshuffle of her Cabinet, following months of speculation about who will be demoted or promoted after a number of public failures.

The change comes ahead of a parliamentary three-week recess, and months after two ministers lost their portfolios after public failings.

Most notably, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford has lost his housing part of his job, following Kiwibuild’s myriad failures such as falling significantly short of unrealistic targets.

The primary housing role has gone to consistent performer Megan Woods, who will lead the reset of the Government's housing programme.

Kris Faafoi has been brought into Cabinet, as expected, and he will be part of a three-person housing team, holding the job of Associate Housing Minister with responsibility for public housing, social housing and homelessness.

Faafoi is a well-respected minister who has performed well, and his workload had increased significantly after picking up portfolios from Clare Curran and Meka Whaitiri when they resigned and were sacked respectively.

Well-respected and competent junior minister Kris Faafoi has been promoted to Cabinet. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

He is dropping his Civil Defence, Customs and associate immigration roles and picking up the Government Digital Services portfolio to go with his broadcasting and commerce responsibilities, as well as his new housing role.

Ardern said Faafoi was a "trusted pair of hands" and was "widely respected by stakeholders and his colleagues".

Twyford will remain on the housing team with Woods, Faafoi and Nanaia Mahuta (who was already Associate Housing Minister with responsibility for Māori Housing).

In addition to maintaining his work on urban development, he will also take over from David Parker as Economic Development Minister.

Ardern acknowledged KiwiBuild's shortcomings but acknowledged the work Twyford had done thus far, saying he was carrying major responsibilities for one person and a fresh set of eyes would be beneficial.

Phil Twyford has lost his role as Housing Minister, and will instead be in charge of urban development and economic development. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

“It’s an admission, though, that it was a hug job; it was a job too big for one minister and an admission we know we have got things wrong with Kiwibuild.”

Ardern said the changes to the housing team was an acknowledgment the Government had got things wrong on Kiwibuild, but was now working to fix them.

“This Cabinet refresh means we will have a sharper focus on solving the housing crisis and ensures we are well placed to continue to deliver the changes we were elected to make," Ardern said.

In a statement, Twyford said he remained committed to addressing the housing crisis and still had a part to play as Urban Development Minister and Economic Development Minister.

“Efforts to tackle the national housing crisis are bigger than one person.”

Another big move was the promotion of Poto Williams to a minister outside of Cabinet, becoming Community and Voluntary Sector Minister as well as an associate minister for social development, immigration, and greater Christchurch regeneration.

“Poto Williams has been an MP since 2013 and is currently the Assistant Speaker. As the MP for Christchurch East she knows all too well the ongoing issues facing the local community as they continue to recover post-earthquake,” Ardern said

New minister Poto Williams watches on as newly promoted Cabinet minister Kris Faafoi speaks to media. Photo: Thomas Coughlan.

Williams - the only new member of the executive - will be sworn in on July 3.

Speaking to media, Faafoi said he was looking forward to working alongside Twyford to help fix housing problems, and pointed to his own background as motivation.

"I grew up in a state house, so having that privilege of having a state house has meant a lot for me and my family."

Williams said she and the wider Pasifika community were excited to have a greater chance for their wishes to be shared "at the top table".

In other, more minor changes, Grant Robertson has become Minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission, Jenny Salesa has replaced Faafoi as Customs Minister, Peeni Henare is stepping into the Civil Defence role and a small number of associate delegations have changed.

Ruth Dyson will be nominated for the role of Assistant Speaker, with Michael Wood becoming the senior government whip and gives up his roles as an undersecretary and chair of Parliament's finance and expenditure committee.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan is now the parliamentary private secretary for ethnic affairs, while Willow Jean Prime has become a private secretary for local government.

This is the first reshuffle since this Government came into power in 2017.

Ardern said the Government was now more than halfway through its first terms, and was making "good progress on the long-term issues facing New Zealand", with the Government now hitting its stride.

A tough term for some

But there have been some bad moments for this coalition.

In September last year, both Curran and Whaitiri lost their ministerial portfolios, leaving a large gap.

Curran resigned as a minister and from Cabinet, while Ardern sacked Whaitiri following an altercation with a staff member.

Whaitiri continued to dispute allegations she shouted at and grabbed one of her staffers, but an investigation into the matter gave Ardern grounds to remove her.

Since then, the Labour Māori caucus has lobbied to get their co-chair returned to a ministerial portfolio. Ardern said the door was not closed on Whaitiri, but now was not the time.

Last year saw Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway drop the ball in the Karel Sroubek saga, and miss key pieces of information when making a discretionary decision about whether to grant the convicted drug smuggler residency.

Labour has had an issue with the depth of talent, following a poor result in the 2014 election, where the party failed to bring in much new talent.

There were also issues around a lack of gender and ethnic diversity at the Cabinet table, with only 30 percent of the Cabinet currently female. Ardern said she was working on creating opportunities for new and diverse talent from the class of 2017 to move up through the ranks.

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