Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announces Meka Whaitiri's replacements in ministerial roles

The replacements for Meka Whaitiri in the ministerial portfolios she held before defecting from Labour to Te Pāti Māori have been announced.

Jo Luxton will become a minister outside of Cabinet. She will take on the Associate Agriculture Minister role, the Associate Education Minister role and also become the Minister of Customs. The second-term MP is currently an under-secretary for agriculture and education.

Kieran McAnulty will be the Hawke's Bay lead minister for cyclone recovery. He's currently doing that in an acting role.

Rachel Brooking will become the Food Safety Minister and Peeni Henare will be the permanent Minister for Veterans.

Whaitiri shocked Parliament last week after it emerged that she was leaving the Labour Party - which she had represented for about 10 years - for Te Pāti Māori.

While she hasn't provided a clear reason for the defection, she has said it is about returning to her whakapapa. Willie Jackson, a former colleague of Whaitiri's in Labour, has suggested Whaitiri not being promoted into Cabinet was a factor.

After a debate over whether Whaitiri had triggered the waka-jumping legislation, which would have required her to vacate her seat, the Speaker ruled that she would sit in Parliament as an independent MP.

Whaitiri used to have a Cabinet seat, but was removed after allegations of bullying. She was promoted to a minister outside of Cabinet after the 2020 election, but has not returned to Cabinet, despite a number of departures over the past three years. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has had to do several Cabinet reshuffles since he took over as leader in January. After choosing his initial Cabinet, Hipkins has also had to find a replacement for Stuart Nash when he resigned as Police Minister and then for Nash's other portfolios when he was sacked for leaking confidential Cabinet material to donors. Nash was replaced in Cabinet by Willow-Jean Prime.

Nash was also the lead for cyclone recovery in Hawke's Bay before his dismissal. That role then went to Whaitiri, who has now had to hand it over to a third minister.