Jan 31 • 10M

Dusk Chorus: Mahuta and Little demoted

Hipkins gives Local Government to McAnulty and Health to Verrall after demoting Mahuta and Little; Woods gets Infrastructure and Wood given new Auckland Minister role; Greive resigns as Spinoff CEO

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Nanaia Mahuta fell the furthest in the Cabinet reshuffle. Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images

TLDR: PM Chris Hipkins unveiled a Cabinet this afternoon he hopes will show wavering voters that a refreshed Labour Government is focused on ‘bread and butter cost of living’ issues, rather than the unpopular, unwieldy and massively centralising reforms in Health and Three Waters.

He tried to signal the change in approach by removing and demoting the ministers in charge of these two big reforms: Andrew Little in Health and Nanaia Mahuta in Local Government. But it’s not clear the change of personnel will change the substance of the policies that voters appear unhappy about, with the Health and Three Waters reforms already legislated and mostly completed.

He may be hoping changes of faces and tone, including his own replacement of Jacinda Ardern, are enough to reset the mood of voters and put the phone back on the hook for Labour. Hipkins and Labour will be encouraged by fresh evidence in polls overnight that Hipkins, albeit only just being introduced to most voters, is more trusted and approved of by voters than the other Chris: National Leader Christopher Luxon.

However, there’s still nine months to go and honeymoons rarely last that long, especially when inflation remains high and indebted homeowners and landlords are set to refix $170 billion worth of fixed mortgages before the October 14 election at rates of around 6.5% to 7.0%, up from 2-3% set before the Reserve Bank (Te Pūtea Matua) started hiking in late 2021. Hipkins has also yet to be tested on his own record as the maestro of MIQ and the architect of the currently-troubled centralisation of polytechs, along with being a key lieutenant of Jacinda Ardern since Labour won Government in 2017.

Hipkins remained cagey about how exactly he might change the policies, saying only he wanted to review Three Waters and that the ‘reining in of some plans’ would be detailed in the coming weeks as new ministers got their feet under their desks.

I’ve included more detail and analysis of the cabinet reshuffle’s winners, losers and potential next steps for paying subscribers in the podcast above and below the paywall fold.

Elsewhere in Aotearoa’s political economy today:

  • New Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty announced the Government would provide a record-high $1 million grant to the Mayoral Relief Fund to help Aucklanders cope with the nation’s most expensive-ever climate event;

  • MetService upgraded its weather warnings to ‘red’ again for Northland, Auckland north of Orewa and the Coromandel peninsular as a state of emergency was declared in Northland and the road between Paeroa and Waihi was closed because of a large slip; and,

  • Duncan Greive, the founder and CEO of The Spinoff, announced his resignation as CEO and a return to a senior writing role for the website, although he remains the controlling shareholder. He has appointed Hex Work Production founder Amber Easby as his successor (Hex Work is owned by The Spinoff).

The winners, losers and potential meanings of Hipkins’ rejig

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