'New Zealand has come of age': Māori MPs don't want their presence in Cabinet to be news

Kelvin Davis hopes one day, the number of Māori in Cabinet and holding ministerial positions won't be news.

The new Cabinet, sworn in on Friday, has five Māori, and there are another two Māori ministers outside of Cabinet. 

Labour's Davis, Nanaia Mahuta, Peeni Henare, Kiri Allan, and Willie Jackson are in Cabinet, while Meka Whaitiri and the Greens' Marama Davidson are ministers on the outside. 

That a quarter of the Cabinet is Māori made news not just here but internationally, with the Washington Post, al Jazeera, and the Japan Times covering the story.

Davis hopes if future Cabinets are just as diverse, it's not news.

"I'd like to think that just becomes normal - that people aren't surprised or amazed that we've got seven Māori in ministerial positions, and that in future Governments it's just seen to be the norm," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"I'd love to see it. Those of us who grew up in Māori communities and see Māori leadership everywhere, it's actually nothing new. I was quite surprised in politics that the rest of the country see it as something really special. We think it is wonderful, but I'd just like it to be normalised."

Kelvin Davis and the country's Māori ministers.
Kelvin Davis and the country's Māori ministers. Photo credit: Getty

Some news outlets zeroed in on Mahuta's tā moko

"New Zealand has come of age in terms of how we see our place in the world and what is unique about our identity and our culture," she told Newshub Nation, appearing with Davis.

Davis said he was "so proud" of Mahuta's achievement, becoming not just the first woman but first Māori woman to hold the foreign affairs portfolio. 

Her first challenge is likely to be dealing with the fallout from the contested US election. She declined to comment on how New Zealand's relationship with the US would change under a likely Joe Biden presidency.

"New Zealand values the relationship with the United States. Let's wait for the final count to make sure that everything will be as it needs to be in terms of how the American voters have decided the outcome of their election... I'm not going to speculate on who we will be talking with, but I do know that it is important to ensure that the relationship with the US is strengthened and that there is advantage for New Zealand."

"Let's wait for the final count to see who we will be talking to."

Davis, as Labour Party deputy leader, could have been Deputy Prime Minister - but voluntarily made way for Grant Robertson. Davis has often been criticised for his communication skills, and that appears to have played a role in his decision to step aside.

"The Prime Minister canvassed us all on what we wanted - she made it clear the decision to be Deputy Prime Minister was a decision for me to make. Look, in Jacinda and Grant we've got the two best political communicators of a generation, and I think it's right - they've totally got my backing."

He remains deputy leader of the Labour Party.