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Chris Hipkins juggling a selection of breads and butters. Image: Archi Banal
Chris Hipkins juggling a selection of breads and butters. Image: Archi Banal

PoliticsJanuary 31, 2023

The winners and losers in Chris Hipkins’ ‘bread and butter’ reshuffle

Chris Hipkins juggling a selection of breads and butters. Image: Archi Banal
Chris Hipkins juggling a selection of breads and butters. Image: Archi Banal

Analysis: In juggling his cabinet, the new prime minister said he sought to balance stability with renewal, writes Toby Manhire.

There were some massive shifts reflected in the first cabinet of Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced this afternoon – it’s just we knew about them already. Specifically: Mt Albert MP Jacinda Ardern disappearing from cabinet, with Hipkins and his new deputy Carmel Sepuloni surging to the top. Given those changes, and especially the portfolios accordingly vacated by Hipkins, the reshuffle was for the most part modest, with just one or two real surprises. 

In a reshuffle Hipkins presented, in keeping with his rebrand of last week, as a group of people focused on bread and butter, Hipkins said he hoped to “balance stability with renewal”. Stability, in the circumstances, was the winner on the day. For the DIY prime minister, this was more patch-up than full refurb. (Scroll to end for the new executive and rankings in full.) 

Hipkins and Sepuloni (who retains social welfare and arts and drops ACC) notwithstanding, the big climber was Michael Wood, up from 16th ranking to seventh. He already had a weighty pile of portfolios, including immigration, transport and workplace relations. To those he adds associate minister for finance and Auckland issues. Hipkins brushed off a press gallery inquiry over whether Wood had inherited the Hipkins Fix-it mantle, but it sure looks that way. 

A minister for Auckland, the last edition of which was Judith Tizard in 2002, is not a direct response to the floods in the city. Hipkins’ decision will have been influenced by the fact that he is not, unlike the three most recent long serving prime ministers, based in Auckland, but it is likely as much motivated by the range of specific issues our biggest urban centre faces, ranging from transport to business to housing. That was an imperative National spotted first, when Christopher Luxon appointed Simeon Brown as Auckland spokesperson. You’d be forgiven for having missed that – it was announced an hour before Jacinda Ardern resigned. National loses the chance to say it’s prioritising the city in a way Labour isn’t, but can at least mutter loudly that its idea got nicked.

There are new ministers for two of the very biggest portfolios, especially so for a Labour government. Ayesha Verrall takes health, propelled up 11 spots in pursuit of a more emollient presence after Andrew Little, whose bullish approach to reform rubbed some noses out of joint. Chris Hipkins’ beloved education portfolio goes to another former associate understudy, Jan Tinetti, who rises nine rungs. The only surprise is Hipkins didn’t attempt to make more of the fact that he was announcing a former physician as minister of health and a former school principal as minister of education. Both new front-benchers are likely to be warmly received in the sectors, at least initially. 

Another of Hipkins’ key former portfolios, police, goes to a former holder of the ministerial warrant: Stuart Nash. Given the intense focus on law and order, little wonder stability was favoured over renewal there. 

The only newcomers to cabinet are Kieran McAnulty, Ginny Andersen and Barbara Edmonds. Hipkins has resisted any big statement promotion here, however; these three well regarded MPs join as 18th, 19th and 20th. As was almost universally predicted, McAnulty takes the local government portfolio he’s been dress-rehearsing for many months since he was dispatched on a tour of the provinces. Some will attempt to depict the loss of the portfolio as chastening for Nanaia Mahuta but she retains foreign affairs, and it was clearly, after the borders reopened, absurd to hold that local-global double. At the same time, it’s hard not to read a demotion from ninth ranking to 16th as a sign.

Among others who may feel bruised are Peeni Henare, who loses the defence portfolio – Hipkins rejected the suggestion it amounted to a demotion – and Little, who as well as dropping health falls seven rungs in the rankings, though he does pick up that defence job. Little is “absolutely an integral member of our team”, Hipkins told media, and he does retain the very senior role of minister responsible for the spooks. Phil Twyford was “very philosophical” about his demotion out of the executive, at least according to the prime minister. The other ministers who drop out of the picture (David Clark, Poto Williams, Aupito William Sio) are on the way out of parliament altogether, having previously announced they won’t run at the next election.

Two senior members of the Māori caucus, Willie Jackson and Kiri Allan, jump up the rankings. Jackson retains the media and broadcasting warrant, despite the predictions that the RNZ-TVNZ merger may get the chop in the upcoming “reining back”. Said Hipkins: “We haven’t made any decisions on that.” 

He did, however, remind us that the chop is looming ever closer. “This reshuffle is just the first step in our shift in focus,” said Hipkins. “Over the coming days and weeks you will see us put words into action, with policies to support New Zealanders by reprioritising existing programmes to free up resources to help with the cost of living.”

On diversity, the cabinet of 20 includes 11 men and nine women. There are five Māori cabinet ministers, and two Pasifika. 

Asked why he had not assigned himself a portfolio to indicate personal priorities, in the way that John Key had tourism or Jacinda Ardern arts and culture (originally) and child poverty reduction, Hipkins was unusually blunt. “I’m not interested in a symbolic gesture,” he said. No artisan loaves for him. No fancy condiments. Just the bread. And the butter. 

The new cabinet (and outside-cabinet ministerial roles), effective February 1


1 (previously rank 5) Chris Hipkins

Prime Minister  

Minister for National Security and Intelligence

Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services    

2 (5) Carmel Sepuloni

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Social Development and  Employment

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage 

Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs (Pacific Region)

3 (3) Kelvin Davis

Minister for Māori Crown Relations:  Te Arawhiti

Minister for Children

Minister of Corrections

Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education)

4 (2) Grant Robertson

Minister of Finance

Minister for Sport and Recreation 

Leader of the House

5 (4) Megan Woods

Minister of Housing

Minister for Infrastructure

Minister of Energy and Resources

Minister for Building and Construction

Associate Minister of Finance

6 (15) Jan Tinetti

Minister of Education

Minister for Women

Minister for Child Poverty Reduction

7 (16) Michael Wood

Minister of Immigration

Minister of Transport

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety

Minister for Auckland 

Associate Minister of Finance

8 (19) Ayesha Verrall 

Minister of Health

Minister of Research, Science and Innovation

9 (14) Willie Jackson

Minister for Broadcasting and Media

Minister for Māori Development

Associate Minister for ACC

Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (Māori Employment)

10 (17) Kiri Allan 

Minister of Justice

Minister for Regional Development

Associate Minister of Transport

11 (12) Stuart Nash

Minister for Economic Development

Minister of Forestry

Minister of Police

Minister for Oceans and Fisheries

12 (11) Damien O’Connor

Minister of Agriculture

Minister for Biosecurity

Minister for Land Information

Minister for Trade and Export Growth 

13 (7) 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

14 (8) David Parker


Minister for the Environment

Minister of Revenue

Associate Minister of Finance

15 (13) Peeni Henare

Minister for ACC

Minister of Tourism

Minister for Whānau Ora

Associate Minister for the Environment

Associate Minister of Health (Māori Health)

16 (9) Nanaia Mahuta 

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control

Associate Minister for Māori Development

17 (20) 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

18 (new) Kieran McAnulty

Minister for Emergency Management

Minister of Local Government

Minister for Racing

Minister for Rural Communities

Deputy Leader of the House

19 (new) 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

20 (new) Barbara Edmonds

Minister of Internal Affairs

Minister for Pacific Peoples

Associate Minister of Health (Pacific Peoples)

Associate Minister of Housing

Ministers outside cabinet

Meka Whaitiri (Minister of Customs, Minister for Food Safety, Minister for Veterans, Associate Minister of Agriculture, Associate Minister of Statistics)

Duncan Webb (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Minister for State Owned Enterprises)

Willow-Jean Prime (Minister of Conservation, Minister for Youth, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Associate Minister of Health)

Rino Tirikatene (Minister for Courts, Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth)

Deborah Russell (Minister of Statistics, Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission, Associate Minister of Justice, Associate Minister of Revenue)

Cooperation agreement ministers

Marama Davidson (Minister for the Prevention of Family and  Sexual Violence, Associate Minister of Housing)

James Shaw (Minister of Climate Change, Associate Minister for the Environment)

Parliamentary under-secretary

Jo Luxton (Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the  Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Education)

Labour’s new whip team comprises Tangi Utikere (chief whip) and junior whips Camilla Belich, Shanan Halbert and Tracey McLellan.

Keep going!