Pike River claims Wilkinson

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2013
kate wilkinson
Fairfax NZ
KATE WILKINSON: Dumped from Cabinet.

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Former Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson has been a "lame duck" since the damning report into the Pike River Coal mine tragedy was released, Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says.

Wilkinson quit as minister after a royal commission of inquiry found a string of failures by the former Department of Labour contributed to the deaths of 29 men in the mine.

But she hung on in Cabinet as minister of conservation, food safety, and as associate minister of immigration.

Yesterday she was a victim of Prime Minister John Key's ruthless reshuffle.

Kokshoorn said Wilkinson had been vulnerable since her main role was stripped from her.

"Once she lost that portfolio she was a bit of a lame duck in the Cabinet with the other smaller portfolios that she had."

The timing of the decision appeared to be politically motivated, he said.

"It's a tough one to work out why this was done. I think politically it probably would have been a better look at the time. Possibly it was a bit of loyalty to her."

Kokshoorn said he had always found Wilkinson to be a good person.

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor said the families of the miners would probably accept Wilkinson's further demotion as a fair level of ministerial responsibility.

There was a clear line of responsibility within the department for the mistakes made, the Labour MP said.

"Kate Wilkinson has fronted up to her responsibilities; the prime minister has yet to."

Wilkinson said she was "naturally" disappointed but vowed to stay on as MP for Waimakariri.

"It has been an honour and a privilege to have served as a minister in the National-led Government and I am proud of my contribution to Cabinet over the past four years."

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