National cabinet Minister in Coast to Coast

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2013
Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye
Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye

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If you saw Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye tucking into the kai at Waitangi yesterday, she was only "carbo-loading" for the Coast to Coast.

The 32-year-old Auckland Central MP will dash from a one-day caucus meeting today to line up at Kumara Beach tomorrow in the Coast to Coast two-day race.

Kaye, a former Auckland 3000-metre track champion, completed the gruelling multisport event in 2008 while on National's back benches and decided to have another crack five years later.

Like all diligent Coast to Coasters, she was churning through some serious summer training till she got a call from Prime Minister John Key with an offer she could not refuse. She was being promoted to minister of food safety, Civil Defence and youth affairs in his Cabinet reshuffle.

Kaye considered pulling out of the Coast to Coast as she got to grips with her new portfolios.

"If the Coast to Coast had been further out, I probably wouldn't have been able to do it. But the fact I had been made a minister only a few weeks before, I thought: I will do it."

Since her elevation, Kaye's training has slowed, "apart from an hour's run here and there".

"But I did have the opportunity in December and January to put in a fair amount of training. I did a practice run through Goat Pass and I did some cycling around Christchurch when I was down visiting my grandmother."

Kaye had her first Cabinet meeting on Monday and was "up at 4am" yesterday for Waitangi Day commemorations.

She has had a lot of homework to do in her new roles and a lot of meetings to attend, but was "trying to eat enough" and "get the carbohydrates in" before the race.

Her goal is simply to make the starting line at Kumara and cross the finish line at Sumner on Saturday afternoon. "When I did it in 2008, it took me over 20 hours.

"But if I have a good day this time, I hope to do it in 18."

She runs around the hilly streets near the Beehive when in the capital but "doesn't do much cycling in Wellington". "So it was good to get some cycling in down in Christchurch. Potentially, the kayaking is my weakest thing."

She stays with her 92-year-old grandmother, Mickey Kerr, at her retirement village in Christchurch. "I hope she will be at the finish line in Sumner."

Kaye's mother, Julia, and her sister's fiance will be part of her race support team. She was considering camping at Klondyke Corner tomorrow night but has now decided to stay in a house to get internet access. "I'll have to do some work after the race has finished on both days."

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There will be little time to unwind after the 243-kilometre event. Kaye has another Cabinet meeting on Monday - her 33rd birthday.

- Fairfax Media

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