National caucus reshuffle: Barbara Kuriger falls, Judith Collins rockets back up list

National has unveiled its caucus reshuffle, with Barbara Kuriger falling out of the top 20 and former leader Judith Collins moving back up the list.

Kuriger, who resigned her agriculture portfolio last year amid a conflict of interest scandal, has been given the Conservation portfolio and is unranked on the latest list. She was previously ranked tenth. Acting Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller will keep that portfolio and take on Climate Change.

"I am really happy. It is a great portfolio. Looking forward to it," Kuriger said after the announcement.

Collins, who was the unsuccessful National leader at the last election, is now ranked at number 10 and has been given the new portfolios of Foreign Direct Investment and Digitising Government on top of Land Information and Science, Innovation and Technology. She was previously ranked 18th.

"I've been working very, very hard and no doubt you heard about the excellent tech summit we ran last year," Collins said. "Head down, work hard, and it's amazing what can happen."

Asked if Judith Collins was back, she said: "I don't think she's ever been away."

"I am always here working hard and being part of the team."

Tama Potaka, the new Hamilton West MP, has been given Māori Development and Associate Housing portfolios, with a focus on social housing.

Christopher Luxon, who took over the party's leadership from Collins in November 2021, said his team will "embrace pragmatic solutions for New Zealand’s toughest problems, like the rising cost of living, ram raids, and falling educational achievement".

The party caucus is currently gathering in Napier preparing for election year.

"A National Government will get things done – strengthening the economy to lift incomes, building infrastructure and delivering better frontline public services," Luxon said. "The line-up National will take into the election is a mixture of experience and emerging talent."

Among the other changes is Chris Bishop picking up the Urban Development and RMA Reform roles and handing over the Shadow Leader of the House job to Michael Woodhouse. Louise Upston takes on Family Violence Prevention to add to her Social Development and Employment portfolio.

Todd McClay has picked up the new Hunting and Fishing portfolio, while Penny Simmonds - from the class of 2020 - has risen into the top 20 and taken the new Workforce Planning role.

Scott Simpson, who held Climate Change previously, has also taken a tumble from 11th to 19th, but retains Environment. Mark Mitchell moves from 13th to 11th and picks up Corrections alongside his Police portfolio. Previous Corrections spokesperson Simon O'Connor gets Muller's old Internal Affairs role. Muller is now at 12.

David Bennett, Jacqui Dean and Ian McKelvie have been placed at the bottom of National's list. All three have previously announced they intend to retire at the election.

The caucus reshuffle comes ahead of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing changes to her Cabinet. It's unclear when she reveal that reshuffle, but Ardern has said it will be early in the year.

Kuriger's demotion follows her resigning her portfolios in October. She hadn't registered a conflict of interest she had due to an ongoing family dispute with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). An individual who contacted Newshub claiming to be a MPI employee alleged Kuriger used her official letterhead to persistently request official information about her family’s case.

An independent review of a MPI investigation into animal welfare allegations against family members of Kuriger later found it was handled adequately and "not motivated by improper purpose".

She told Newshub on Thursday morning she "wrote some emails that could have been better", but she was drawing a line underneath it and moving forward. She intends to stand at the election.

National caucus reshuffle: Barbara Kuriger falls, Judith Collins rockets back up list
National caucus reshuffle: Barbara Kuriger falls, Judith Collins rockets back up list
National caucus reshuffle: Barbara Kuriger falls, Judith Collins rockets back up list