Reactions flood in following Jacinda Ardern's Cabinet announcement

Reactions are flooding in following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's announcement of her new Cabinet on Monday afternoon.

Notably, Grant Robertson is the new Deputy Prime Minister, Andrew Little is Minister of Health, Nanaia Mahuta is Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chris Hipkins is Minister for COVID-19 Response.

Ardern said her new Cabinet reflects "greater coordination around the management of COVID-19 and economic response".

"The next three years will be very challenging for New Zealand. With the global outlook worsening we won't be immune to the ongoing impact COVID is having around the world," she said.

"In what will be a difficult environment, it's critical we have our most experienced ministers leading the ongoing COVID response to keep New Zealanders safe from the virus and to accelerate our plan for economic recovery."

Here is a selection of reactions to the new Cabinet line up.

'Cabinet is not up to the job'

ACT leader David Seymour believes the new ministerial line-up reveals "a serious skill shortage" inside Labour. 

"New Zealanders will hope the new government can succeed in tackling the serious challenges our country faces, but we fear the Cabinet is not up to the job," he said.

He also attacked MPs who "failed" and are "under performers", including Phil Twyford who retains a ministerial role but is outside Cabinet.

"Even after failing to deliver KiwiBuild and light rail, Phil Twyford will continue to receive a ministerial salary," Seymour said.

"Serious under-performers like Willie Jackson are needed to make up the numbers."

Jackson is the Minister for Māori Development, Associate Minister for ACC and Associate Minister of Justice.

"Former Health Minister David Clark went mountain biking during a pandemic, but he returns as Minister in charge of billions of dollars worth of state-owned enterprises," Seymour continued.

"Meka Whaitiri - dumped after allegedly manhandling a staff member - gets her Customs portfolio back."

Clark is Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, Minister for State-Owned Enterprises, Minister of Statistics and Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission.

Whaitiri is outside Cabinet and is Minister of Customs, Minister for Veterans, Associate Minister of Agriculture (Animal Welfare) and Associate Minister of Statistics.

"The new government is faced with serious, long-term challenges in housing, welfare, education and productivity. But Labour has few ideas and even fewer Ministers capable of implementing them," Seymour said.

Willie Jackson.
Willie Jackson. Photo credit: Getty Images

'A positive influence on making progress'

The New Zealand Principals' Federation (NZPF) says it congratulates and welcomes Chris Hipkins returning as Minister of Education, and Kelvin Davis and Jan Tinetti as Associate Ministers.

NZPF president Perry Rush said the federation has already established good working relationships with Hipkins and Davis, and expects it can make progress on "critically important areas" including learning and behaviour support.

"Our sector has been besieged for some years now with extremely challenged young people who have not had the opportunities they deserve because we have not had the funding to implement those interventions that can make a difference," he said.

He hopes the appointment of Tinetti, who was a school principal until 2017, will help in making progress in these areas.

"We expect that she will have a positive influence on making progress with learning and behaviour support because she is well aware of the issues and how extreme they are," Rush said.

Other issues he hopes are resolved during this government's term include leadership support for principals operating in highly complex roles, curriculum advisory and a greater emphasis on and funding for arts in schools, teacher education, property issues and addressing inequities.

Jan Tinetti.
Jan Tinetti. Photo credit: Getty Images

'Blessed with a plethora of talent'

The New Zealand Māori Council says it applauds the make-up of Cabinet and Government, particularly the appointment of Māori Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The appointment of Peeni Henare as Minister of Defence and Associate Minister of Health with a focus on Māori has also been welcomed.

Executive director Matthew Tukaki said while he's disappointed Kelvin Davis isn't the Deputy Prime Minister, the reality is "about the need to focus on the key priority areas that impact Māori".

"I really look forward to working with him in the role of Minister of Children. We have a lot to achieve in what has been a tumultuous period in the life of Aotearoa and our tamariki in state care," he said.

He said Mahuta becoming the first female Māori to be Minister of Foreign Affairs is "something to be applauded".

"I can tell you as someone who has been a former country representative to the United Nations these times require good steady hands on the art of diplomacy and Nanaia has it in spades."

Tukaki also welcomed Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson becoming Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence and Associate Minister of Housing (Homelessness). 

"The Government has been blessed with a plethora of talent from within the Māori Caucus and the expectations of Māori are very high - that includes the need to ensure that we have those Māori sitting at the Cabinet table. That table is the decision-making table and Māori have a right to be there," he said. Davidson isn't a Cabinet Minister instead being offered the role as part of a cooperation agreement between Labour and the Greens. 

He also congratulated second term Labour MP Kiri Allan for becoming Minister of Conservation, Minister for Emergency Management, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Associate Minister for the Environment.

"In all reality, we have a lot of work to do and that work needs to start today. This is a good outcome for Māori but I can tell you the New Zealand Māori Council will not be holding back when it comes to holding our ministers and the Government to account," Tukaki said.

Nanaia Mahuta.
Nanaia Mahuta. Photo credit: Getty Images

A "historic moment" for family and sexual violence

Davidson's appointment was described as "a giant leap forward" by the National Network of Family Violence Services.

Network CEO Merran Lawler said the news marked a "historic moment" in New Zealand's need to combat family and sexual violence.

She said it marks a turning point in the Government's recognition of "such deep-seated social problems".

"We look forward to close collaboration with Minister Davidson and ministry staff," Lawler said.

'Never one for the faint-hearted'

Andrew Little will need to "quickly get to grips" with a "struggling" health system in his new role as Minister of Health, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) says.

It welcomed his appointment to the role since he has a "strong track record" in Government and his work on Treaty negotiations will support ending health inequities.

ASMS also welcomed Peeni Henare and Dr Ayesha Verrall, who will focus on Māori Health and Public Health respectively.

Executive director Sarah Dalton said the health portfolio is "never one for the faint-hearted".

"Andrew Little will need to quickly get to grips with a system that is struggling under the weight of a long starve in funding, growing waiting lists, staffing shortages, and failing infrastructure and IT," she said.

"Given all this, it is pleasing to note that responsibility for COVID-19 has been separated out so that work on the pandemic does not overwhelm longer-term health issues."

She added that hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders are missing out on healthcare they need because hospitals and specialist services are overcapacity and overstretched, and this is something that needs to be fixed.