Nick Smith returns to Cabinet

Last updated 12:27 22/01/2013

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Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson have been axed from Cabinet to make way for new minister Nikki Kaye and a redeemed Nick Smith, Prime Minister John Key has announced.

Smith resigned as ACC Minister in the wake of the Bronwyn Pullar ACC scandal and has been on the Government backbenches since last year.

Auckland Central MP Kaye will be minister for food safety, youth affairs and civil defence while Smith will pick up housing and conservation.

Kaye's additional appointment as Associate Education Minister was part of Key's plan to make sure children were being provided with the tools they would face in the world.

''That is about digital literacy, making sure we've got those computers, and technology, deeply embedded in our schools, whether it's more iPads, or the way that we communicate with each other... And I think Nikki is going to bring both that younger person, but also someone with deep interest in education to that portfolio''. 

Government whip Michael Woodhouse has also been appointed as a minister, outside of Cabinet, with responsibility for immigration and veterans affairs.

Minister Simon Bridges has been promoted into Cabinet and will take over the labour and energy and resources portfolios as well as associate transport.

David Carter has been named as the Government's nominee to become Speaker when Lockwood Smith leaves to take up his appointment as New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Carter's primary industries portfolio will be picked up by Nathan Guy.

Key said Heatley and Wilkinson had made a ''great contribution'' for four years, and while he had asked them to stand down, he hoped both would continue and stand as candidates in the 2014 election.

''It's my view we do need to refresh so I'm asking them to stay as team players as part of the National caucus but as backbenchers. Both of them have given me that commitment.''

Wilkinson's replacement was not related to the fallout from Pike River, which forced her to stand down at Labour Minister.

''That was a reflection of the Government taking its failures seriously, and she did absolutely the right thing. But irrelevant of Pike River I still would have replaced her at the start of this year'' as part of a Cabinet refresh.

Wilkinson was minister of conservation and food safetly, as well as associate minister of immigration. Heatley was minister of housing and energy resources.

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Meanwhile, Jonathan Coleman and Amy Adams have also been promoted with their Cabinet rankings rising to 10 and 15 respectively. 

The Novopay debacle also featured in Key's reshuffle plans.

Responsibility for fixing the beleaguered teacher pay system has been transferred to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.

To date this had been the role of Associate Education Minister Craig Foss, however he had been dumped and replaced with new minister Nikki Kaye.

Key said he shared teachers' and principals' concerns about problems with Novopay and wanted the issue sorted.

"A fresh set of eyes is needed and I have asked Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce to take on that responsibility."

The transfer would be made under the Constitution Act.

Key said it may take some time to get the problems sorted as they appeared to be systematic.

"I can assure teachers that we want to get Novopay sorted as soon as possible.

Foss has instead picked up the Minister of Consumer Affairs role to go alongside his work as Commerce Minister.


- Fairfax Media


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