First-term list MP Hekia Parata's promotion to Cabinet is the final step in the resurrection of a political career.
Ms Parata, 52, was yesterday named the new ethnic affairs and women's affairs minister, replacing former Cabinet minister Pansy Wong, who was forced to resign for abusing her travel perk.
Once touted as a rising star within National, Ms Parata became the face of Maori disaffection with National under former leader Don Brash after he launched the 2005 election campaign on the back of a speech highlighting racial divisions.
Ms Parata had previously been earmarked for Cabinet after contesting the high-profile Wellington Central seat in 2002, but her split with the party over its direction under Dr Brash meant she did not stand for Parliament again till 2008.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday rewarded her for a strong campaign in the Mana by-election by elevating her to the Cabinet over several more seasoned backbenchers.
He admitted that it was likely to ruffle feathers. "Unquestionably, there will be people that will be disappointed to have not made it into Cabinet ... In this case, when it comes to Hekia, I think she's extraordinarily talented.
"There were about four or five candidates pressing at the door and, in my view, Hekia was the most talented of them."
Ms Parata also picks up associate minister roles for ACC, energy and resources and for the community and voluntary sector.
She was "humbled" by her promotion to the Cabinet and refused to dwell on the time she split with the party. "I didn't consider them wilderness years; I had a particular disagreement with a particular person and his outlook at the time.
"I got on and did other things ... when John Key became the leader and we talked in 2007 it felt right for me to re-engage at the level that I wanted to."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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