Who to replace Brownlee as EQ minister?

WILL HARVIE
Last updated 10:20 30/05/2014

If you believe that the Canterbury rebuild isn't working, then you might think that a different earthquake recovery minister could do better. You might hope that prime minister shuffles his cabinet after the election and replaces Gerry Brownlee with... well who?

The subject of this blog isn't whether National will win the election or whether Brownlee should go, but rather the entirely pragmatic matter of who might replace him. He won't be replaced, after all, if there's not a solid successor.

First let's look at the attributes the job needs:

SENIORITY AND GRAVITAS

The EQ minister has to command respect around the cabinet table and within the National Party caucus. He or she has to win most of the important internal debates and get (or protect) the needed funding. As the senior MP from Canterbury and a senior cabinet minister, Brownlee has seemingly done that. A lesser figure might not.

EXPERIENCE IS ESSENTIAL

He or she has to know Parliament, the civil service and hopefully has some life experience and qualifications to bring to the rebuild.

WOULD A LOCAL BE BEST?

Ideally you'd want someone who felt the earth shake often, whose home was damaged, who has grappled with the Earthquake Commission and private insurers, and lives the current Canterbury lifestyle. But it's not essential. More on this later.

Amy Adams (Selwyn) and Nicky Wagner (Christchurch Central) are both associate EQ ministers and the obvious first cabs off the rank. Neither has exactly vaulted into prominence and Wagner faces a tough re-election battle (iPredict picks Labour's Tony Milne to win ChCh Central 82 to 17).

David Carter (list for Port Hills) is the speaker but there is no constitutional reason why he couldn't return to cabinet.

Kate Wilkinson (Waimakariri) and Colin King (Kaikoura) are leaving Parliament. Minister outside cabinet Jo Goodhew (Rangitata) and back bencher Jacqui Dean (Waitaki) would need massive promotions to become quake minister.

Candidates Matthew Doocey (Waimakariri), Karl Varley (Wigram) and Stuart Smith (Kaikoura) would be rookie MPs if elected and their CVs don't suggest they should lead a $40 billion rebuild. A Port Hills candidate has not been selected and maybe the Nats could pull a star candidate: Roger Sutton, National MP for Port Hills anyone?

Amy Adams is most likely local to replace Brownlee.

But what if we don't need a local? Someone who grew up here, or lived here for a time, might do.
This opens the door to people like Nick Smith (Nelson), who is an engineer, grew up in North Canterbury and attended Canterbury University, and even John Key, but he's probably too busy.

If we don't need somebody with Canterbury ties at all, then ministers like Steven Joyce (list) and Bill English (Clutha-Southland) come to mind.

Do we really need a recovery minister with Canterbury ties? It would be best, but I prefer competence to empathy. There's a job to be done and the minister doesn't need to have broken gib to do it. quip

Having run a finger down the National Party depth chart and assuming Bill English remains as finance minister and deputy prime minister (meaning a cabinet shuffle will be towards the minor end of things), I predict we're most likely to see Brownlee return as quake recovery minister. If not, then Nick Smith probably has the most attributes needed.

What do you think?

- The Press

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