Former Minister for Building & Construction (and Housing - before it was disestablished), Nick Smith, did a great job, but it's now time for him to move on in Opposition, according to National Party leader Bill English.
The new leader of the Opposition announced his party’s spokespeople for the various portfolios Thursday, saying National was unveiling a strong team that would hold the Labour-led government to account.
In government, National didn’t have a Minister of Housing for the final part of its nine-years, with Nick Smith holding Building & Construction, and Amy Adams holding responsibility for Housing NZ and Social Housing.
Michael Woodhouse – the former Immigration Minister – has now been handed the shadow Housing and Social Housing Portfolios, while Scott Simpson has been handed “Planning” and Andrew Bayly “Building Regulation”.
Nick Smith has ended up with Forestry and Aquaculture – Forestry actually being a big plank of the Labour-led government’s policy agenda, with New Zealand First’s backing. Amy Adams now has responsibility for Justice, and Workplace Relations and Safety, including Pike River.
Steven Joyce has kept the Finance and Infrastructure responsibilities. Paula Bennett remains Deputy Leader. Another position of note to Interest.co.nz readers should be that Commerce has been taken off former Minister for that portfolio, Jacqui Dean, and handed to former Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson. Judith Collins has Transport.
Click here for the full list of who has each portfolio for National.
'Time for Smith to move on'
Speaking to media after making the announcement, English said that in putting together the spokesperson roles, National had focussed in the first instance on continuity. This had been blended with a number of new MPs from last term coming through with more responsibility.
“We want to use the knowledge we have from what was an energised and focussed government and carry over quite a number of our spokespeople into similar roles simply on the belief that they know more and they certainly have much better policy than the new government does.”
However, the 'quite a number' of former Ministers carrying on with the shadow portfolios didn't apply to Smith when it came to Building & Construction.
English was asked about his thinking around taking Building & Construction and the Housing NZ and Social Housing portfolios off Smith and Adams, respectively, and giving them to Michael Woodhouse and Andrew Bayly.
He said he had wanted to move Amy Adams into Workplace Relations due to Labour’s policy in the area. “It’s probably one of the most concerning of the government’s economic policies, is a reversion to pre-1990 industrial relations policy for New Zealand.” Adams had the intuitive understanding of how the workplace worked and businesses, as well as a “crystal clear legal mind.”
On whether taking Building & Construction off Smith was essentially a demotion, English defended the former Minister. “He did a great job in that area. I know he was criticised a lot, but you just need to see, today and yesterday, the highest building consent figures ever, the market now dropping in Auckland – in those figures they use, those annual figures – [and] it will drop for the next 12 months," he said.
“The prices are flat-to-falling, as a measure of success in dealing with a vast amount of complexity. He did a great job. He and I would both be of the view it’s time to move to something else," English said.
English said he thought Smith would stay around for at least the rest of the Parliamentary term. “And he can track the government on their plan to plant a billion trees, which don’t exist and no one knows where they’re going to plant them.”
He then had a go at new Housing Minister Phil Twyford. “He’s already trying to count all the work that was in the pipeline as part of his 100,000 extra houses.”
The policy area was wide open, he said: “The incoming Minister of Housing does not have a plan; the only way he can even partially succeed is to use the plan that National had in place.”
Read English’s press release announcing Opposition portfolios below.
National Party Leader Bill English has unveiled a strong Opposition team which will hold the Government to account and ensure it does not squander the opportunities New Zealanders have created for our country in recent years.
“New Zealand is doing well, with low unemployment, thousands of jobs being created every month, strong public services and New Zealanders getting ahead,” Mr English says.
“That’s a direct result of the hard work and dedication of New Zealanders who have operated confidently with the support of a clear and consistent economic plan and a government focused on achieving measurable results.
“We will be pushing the new Government to maintain that success and that focus.
“Today I am announcing our Opposition lineup which makes the most use of our dedicated and talented caucus. We are the largest Opposition Party New Zealand has ever seen, and the largest party in Parliament. We will ensure we make those numbers count.
“I have ensured we make the most of the experience and knowledge of our former ministers, while also utilising the talents of our large caucus who are passionate about New Zealand’s future.
“All but the latest intake of MPs have been allocated portfolios. Those MPs will be given time to understand Parliamentary processes and work alongside our spokespeople, and be allocated portfolios in due course.
“We will be a strong and loyal Opposition. We are ambitious for New Zealand – and we remain committed to building a stronger, more confident and more prosperous nation.
“We will work tirelessly to ensure New Zealand continues to succeed and New Zealanders continue to get ahead, while holding the current Government to account on any decisions that place that progress at risk.”