Bill English's Ministry was sworn in yesterday and held its first cabinet meeting, but public activity in the capital is now clearly winding down ahead of the Christmas break.
Now the hard work begins for new ministers trying to get across their portfolios, and for officials trying to get their ministers across those portfolios. Briefings to Incoming Ministers (BIMs) that have gathering dust since 2014 are hastily being rewritten and re-presented. Some of the new ministers with the biggest new portfolios will have a heap of reading to do at the beach.
Amy Adams (Social Housing, Social Investment and Housing NZ Corp), Simon Bridges (Economic Development and Communications) and Paul Goldsmith (Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, and Science and Innovation) have the biggest new areas to get across and won't have much time for barbecues and beach volleyball.
Two of the hottest topics for the new Government to deal with in the New Year and ahead of the late 2017 election will be migration and housing.
Michael Woodhouse retained Immigration in the latest reshuffle, but looks set for higher honors (possibly Health) after the May 1 retirement of Murray McCully and Hekia Parata. In the meantime he is continuing his review of temporary work visa and international student settings, along with the skills testing used for work visas.
English was pressed again on housing in the last stand-up news conference of the year after the swearing in his ministry at Government House.
He again rejected criticism of his decision not have a full Housing Minister and denied there was a housing crisis.
"There isn't a housing crisis. I mean, there's a market that's been fairly hot and I think the reasons for that are pretty well understood - very low interest rates, rising incomes, strong economy, a lot of Kiwis not leaving," English said.
"On the one hand there's strong demand and it took quite a while, back in 2013/14/15, for the councils to crank up to get used to the growth. But the good news is that they now are, and we have got more work to do with them to make sure they can accommodate what is a growing economy, growing incomes, growing population - a set of problems that we are very pleased to have," he said.
In other economic and financial news...
Wholemilk powder prices fell for the first time since October 4 in last night's Globaldairytrade auction, although the 0.8% fall to US$3,568/tonne was not enough to budge forecasts from around Fonterra's own view of a NZ$6/kg payout for the current season.
Tweet of the day:
Bill English announces his new portfolio as Deputy Feminist to Paula Bennett. He fills in on the days she is not a feminist.
Have a great day