New Education, Foreign Affairs Ministers in cabinet reshuffle

As predicted, Nikki Kaye is to replace Hekia Parata as Education Minister. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

The Government has reshuffled its line-up as this year's election crawls closer.

Prime Minister Bill English announced today that Nikki Kaye will take over from Hekia Parata, who is stepping down as Education Minister.

It was widely tipped that Kaye, who was named Associate Education Minister after returning from leave to fight breast cancer earlier this year, would be given the role.

A second change sees Gerry Brownlee become Foreign Affairs Minister, following the decision of Murray McCully to not stand at the election.

Brownlee will give up his current portfolios, including Defence, Civil Defence and Greater Christchurch Regeneration, as well as relinquishing his role as Leader of the House.

This means several new faces for Ministerial portfolios.

Mark Mitchell, a former police dog handler, will become the new Defence Minister and has been promoted to cabinet. (He is also Minister for Land Information and Associate Minister for Justice.)

Two MPs have also been promoted to Ministers outside cabinet; Tim Macindoe will become Customs Minister and Associate Minister of Education and Associate Minister of Transport, and Scott Simpson will be Minister of Statistics as well as Associate Minister for the Environment, and Associate Minister of Immigration.

Simon Bridges will take over as Leader of the House from Brownlee, while Nicky Wagner will become Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister.

Tweaks to housing portfolios were also announced by English, with Social Housing Minister Amy Adams taking responsibility for the Crown land programme from Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith.

English denied this was a vote of no confidence in Smith, stating it was due to the large workload in the housing area.

As Education Minister, Parata had plenty of ups and downs since taking over the portfolio in 2011.

Introducing Communities of Learning, which encourage local schools to work together and staff paid more to take a leading role, have not been without criticism. An ongoing proposal to allow children to enrol at online schools has also been controversial and it will be interesting to see how Kaye approaches the issue.