Cabinet reshuffle: The winners and losers as Chris Hipkins gives team a face-lift

The Prime Minister has revealed his new look Cabinet - and one minister in particular has had a dramatic demotion.

Chris Hipkins has sent a clear message to the electorate: we are a new team, but I'm keeping stability at the top.

The top five front bench remains very similar to Ardern's Government. It's Hipkins, his deputy Carmel Sepuloni, deputy Labour Leader Kelvin Davis, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Housing Minister Megan Woods.

But Hipkins has also done a cleanout of some.

The losers include Andrew Little. He's dropped six spots and been stripped of the problematic Health portfolio and picks up Defence instead.

Nanaia Mahuta has, as expected, had a huge demotion, dropping eight places and Local Government.

The Local Government portfolio, which includes the controversial Three Waters reforms, has been wrestled from her. But Hipkins hasn't completely humiliated her as she retains Foreign Affairs.

The winners? Jan Tinetti has had a meteoric rise to number six. The former principal is New Zealand's new Education Minister.

Dr Ayesha Verrall rockets up the ranks and picks up Health. Michael Wood has been appointed a new portfolio, Minister for Auckland, and Kieran McAnulty picks up the troublesome Three Waters reforms in Local Government.

Hipkins said this is how you focus on bread-and-butter issues.

"Today's reshuffle highlights the depth of talent in the Labour team. We know we have a big job ahead of us."

He's retained a top five team for stability's sake. They will also bring experience and proven leadership, he said.

But he's given the rest of the front bench a facelift and invented a new portfolio - Auckland.

"When Auckland succeeds, the country succeeds," Hipkins said.

Wood's job just got infinitely harder after the floods.

"There is infrastructure to be rebuilt," Wood said. "There will be welfare needs in our community. We need to ensure that we build confidence and morale in our city after what has been a really big shock to everyone."

Asked if the portfolio was necessary after concerns about Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown's leadership, Hipkins said: "I am not going to ever get into speculating on or providing a commentary on other elected representatives from Auckland."

The next step is eliminating the afflictions of the Ardern government, including removing Mahuta from the terribly troublesome Three Waters reforms.

"It is an acknowledgement I want her to be focused on Foreign Affairs and that Three Waters portfolio and that Three Waters work is going to require quite a lot of attention in the next little while," Hipkins said.

Overhauling health, Little is out and Dr Verrall is in.

Hipkins said he still has full confidence in Little.

But the health system and its overhauls needed a reset.

"The big part of the reform programme is done and now we are focused on health delivery. I think she is the right person to lead us through the next phase, which is on health delivery."

Phil Twyford's no longer a minister, but he is still an MP.

He's the old architect of Kiwibuild and the genesis of the failure to deliver attack line that plagued Ardern.

"He was very philosophical about it. He recognises the need for renewal."

Prior Prime Ministers have given themselves a portfolio. Sir John Key had Tourism, while Jacinda Ardern had Child Poverty Reduction.

But Hipkins said he is not interested in a "symbolic gesture".

One decision was easy - keep on the money man: Grant Robertson.

"His steady hand on the economy has ensured that we have one of the lowest unemployment rates ever and the Government debt levels are amongst the lowest in the developed world."

But voters aren't thanking him for it.

In the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll we asked, who do you trust to get New Zealand through the recession? The results show 42.8 percent trust National and 37.8 percent trust Labour. Almost 20 percent don't know.

"We absolutely recognise. You've got to earn the trust of New Zealanders every day and I am really confident we will keep doing that," Robertson told Newshub.

National leader Christopher Luxon said: "The economic dashboard has got some amber lights on it and the Government needs to start to do some things to be able to navigate that."

It may be a new look Government, but Labour is faced with the same old problem.

It's going to be an economy election - and voters trust National with that.

Jenna Lynch Analysis

Chris Hipkins has adopted the continuity and change approach. Stability in the top team with a little switch-up to get excited about. He's carving with a scalpel rather than an axe.

He'll hope to have cauterised some of the criticism of Three Waters by removing Mahuta.

Little was becoming too much of a hothead for health. He got the hard bit through, the major restructure. The system is crumpled and it needs a sympathetic, pragmatic and practical touch from someone who knows it inside out.

Overall, this reshuffle was more of a spring clean than a full reno job. But a good dung out was all that was really needed with a fresh Prime Minister.