Kelvin Davis refuses to apologise to Hawke's Bay for being on third Cyclone Recovery Minister in as many months

Kelvin Davis is refusing to apologise to Hawke's Bay after Labour was forced to appoint its third minister in as many months to lead the region's recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle.

It was only last month Meka Whaitiri was given the full-time role as the minister coordinating the cyclone response for Hawke's Bay after Stuart Nash was sacked.

But it was announced on Wednesday Whaitiri was jumping ship to the Māori Party, forcing Labour to appoint Kieran McAnulty as the new minister.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, currently in London ahead of King Charles' coronation, has said he had not heard from Whaitiri.

Appearing on AM on Thursday, Labour Party deputy leader Davis was twice asked by host Ryan Bridge if he'd apologise to Hawke's Bay following the defection of Whaitiri.

"The latest Recovery Minister for that area, just yesterday, announced over $100 million in support for that very region to remove silt and debris around residential homes and farms and vineyards," Davis responded.

Asked again whether Labour was sorry for having to chop and change ministers, Davis said "this is because of Meka Whaitiri's behaviour".

He went on to say McAnulty made "a great start... yesterday with an announcement of $100 million". 

"This took us all by surprise," Davis said of Whaitiri's defection.

"We're friends, colleagues, we've worked closely as a Māori caucus and she was the chair of the Māori caucus for some considerable time. We respect her for the work that she did but she's made a decision and she's responsible for her behaviour."

Davis explained Labour had "a country to run" and was moving on.

Kelvin Davis.
Kelvin Davis. Photo credit: AM

He said the Government wanted to return to the "bread and butter" issues.

"We're a very inclusive caucus, we work well together but politics is a fast-moving game and these sorts of things happen from time to time, and no party is immune from it."

The Prime Minister overnight said he was "disappointed" to still not have heard from Whaitiri.

"I'm still not clear exactly what her reasoning or thinking was behind her decision to switch political parties," Hipkins said.

In Parliament on Wednesday, National Party leader Christopher Luxon asked acting Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni how the people of Hawke's Bay and Gisborne "could have confidence that the next Minister of Cyclone Recovery for that region will last longer than the previous two"?

Sepuloni responded: "The person that has been put into the role as acting Minister for the Cyclone Recovery in Hawke's Bay is one of our most experienced with regards to this type of work.

"We trust that Kieran McAnulty, in his acting role, will serve that community and that region well and we absolutely make a commitment to getting behind him with that work."

Luxon also asked whether Hipkins had lost control of the Government.

"We're certainly still in control and certainly still excited to be Government with our strong 62 MPs in the House and we look forward to continuing to serve New Zealanders, focused on what matters to New Zealand at this point in time," Sepuloni said.