NZ First Leader, Winston Peters; Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and ACT leader, David Seymour sign their coalition agreements.

Perhaps the biggest change that will come to the Beehive as the new government settles in will be a fundamental culture change.

The era of endless consultation will be over.

This looks like a government that knows what it wants to do, and that means it knows what outcomes it wants to achieve.

Interestingly, where it is uncertain or an issue is unresolved, as in the Treaty referendum proposal it proposes to use Parliamentary processes to resolve matters.

Those processes will be Select Committees, which, with their new powers, may become something more effective than the rubber stamps they were under the Labour government.

That may depend primarily on the new Speaker, Gerry Brownlee.

Though long rumoured to be in line for the job, it is not one that Brownlee has ever given any indication that he wanted.

His passion is foreign policy, but he has had to make way for Peters in that portfolio.

But Brownlee has an independent streak to his personality and is also, at heart, a generous man. The Opposition may find they get some latitude from him.

The change in culture will impact Wellington more than anywhere.


The loss of the revenue from the foreign buyers’ tax, the axing of which was a substantial political victory for NZ First, means that there will now be more pressure on Nicola Willis to achieve $715 million in savings to replace the tax.

Through the campaign, she and Christopher Luxon dodged questions on whether they supported ACT’s proposal to shrink the public service back to 2017 levels.

Instead, Willis talked about seeking 6.5 per cent cuts in spending in agencies but there was a suggestion at the Friday coalition announcement that she may work towards ACT’s target.

That will need to be set alongside a commitment to increase spending on health each year by “more than inflation”.

National, in particular, will want to stick to this in government because it is engraven in the party’s political memory that one of the main reasons their vote fell in 2017 was a perception that they had failed to deliver on health.

That may be why National agreed to New Zealand First’s proposal to fund Mike King’s Gumboot Friday campaign against depression with $6 million.

But the bigger issue in health will be whether Shane Reti is able to get on top of the health leviathon. As a still-practicing GP, Reti, with an almost obsessive eye for detail, inevitably views health through a medical lens. But Te Whatu Ora has 80,000 employees. The challenge over the next few years will be a human resources management issue, cutting waste and duplication and focusing resources where they will affect outcomes.

Education is in for a cultural change, and Erica Stanford has a Minister who was one of National’s hardest workers in Opposition; as a consequence, she is one of National’s most popular MPs within the party.

ACT has got approval for its Charter schools, which are, in reality, simply a variant of integrated schools. More important will be how the education bureaucracy will be persuaded to accept the booming demand for places at faith-based integrated schools and private schools.

Louise Upston is one of National’s heavy hitters. She has won respect from the bureaucracy for her attention to detail; she took over from Nick Smith to preside over the party’s policy development process and was heavily involved in the induction of the new MPs this month.

As a Minister of Social Development, she will be the key person in the implementation of social investment, albeit Nicola Willis is actually the Minister.

Former Prime Minister and the architect of social investment, Bill English, has been a voice in the ear of National’s front bench on issues like this while they have been in opposition.

The appointment of Paul Goldsmith as treaty negotiations minister was a surprise. Goldsmith, unlike the two previous Ministers, Andrew Little and Chris Finlayson, is not a lawyer, and though he is a historian, his history has been that of almost exclusively the Pakeha settler world.

POLITIK Hamilton West MP and new Minister Tama Potaka at National’s Blue Greens Forum in 2022

In contrast, Tama Potaka is a former Wall Street lawyer and iwi manager. He has a farming background and is one of only a handful of Maori to have won a general seat. He has all the Maori-specific portfolios and also conservation, which makes its way back into the Cabinet.

He also has a background in Maori tourism based on DoC concessions.

Before he won Hamilton West, Potaka told National’s Blue Green forum in connection with mining that Papatuanuku, as earth mother, would want all her children to prosper, and if she had something they needed, she would willingly offer it.

That may see some interesting collaborations between Potaka and the Minister of Resources, Shane Jones.

Jones and  NZ First have managed to get their streamlined, fast-track consenting legislation into the coalition agreement.

We have yet to see the bill, which has apparently already been drafted, but it is likely to look like Sir Robert Muldoon’s notorious National Development Act, which gave all the consenting authority on projects of national importance to the Minister.

The legislation may prove helpful in getting shovels in the ground to build the promised 13  roads of national importance.

Jones’ other role as Minister of Regional Development seems to be a part of a roster of Ministers in the development space who could well end up tripping over each other; Chris Bishop is Minister of Infrastructure, and Melissa Lee is (unexpectedly) Minister of Economic Development.

But if one economic sector ought to be happy, it should be agriculture. Not only are there now seven  “mud on the boots” farmers in the government, but with Andrew Hoggard and Mark Patterson as associate agriculture ministers, the sector has two proven leaders in the Ministry.

Todd McClay, as Minister, will have to balance the more populist demands from Groundswell and Federated Farmers against the more progressive views of Fonterra, the meat companies and the levy-paying organisations like Dairy NZ and Beef and Lamb NZ.

There is a growing understanding within the agricultural sector that New Zealand’s climate change policy, as far as agriculture is concerned, will be determined by the processing companies driven by their customers.

McClay returns to trade, where his approach will be very similar to that of Damien O’Connor.

However, the big issue for the rural sector will be the environment, and unusually, the portfolio has been placed outside Cabinet with Penny Simmonds.

POLITIK National’s former climate change and environment spokesperson, Scott Simpson, with East Coast Bays MP Erica Stanford at a Blue Greens session at a party conference

The party’s spokesperson in Opposition, Scott Simpson, has been completely passed over. Though he was a Minister in the Key government and chairs the party’s Blue Greens sector group, he has been allocated no role at all.

Simmonds has not attended any Blue Green forums so is something of an unknown quantity.

Climate change is also outside the Cabinet, as it was with Labour.

Federated Farmers have had a big win in climate change with their call to review the farm methane targets now written into the ACT coalition agreement.

But if Simpson was a loser, Judith Collins was surely a winner. She has taken all of Andrew Little’s defence and intelligence portfolios plus her research and innovation portfolio and is (undoubtedly to Winston Peters’ chagrin) Attorney General.

Luxon has said that defence expenditure will not be a priority, so she will have some big challenges because virtually the entire navy will need replacing over the next decade.

She will also have to work with Winston Peters, who will be Foreign Minister. Both, however, instinctively lean towards New Zealand’s traditional allies and neither embraces the independent foreign policy with much enthusiasm.

But Peters will have a new Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and will face a world and a region which has changed since he left the job in 2020.

Influential National Party background figures like former Foreign Minister Murray McCully would like to see New Zealand continue its independent foreign policy by placing greater emphasis on its relations with ASEAN countries to counter-balance Australia, the United States, and China.

David Seymour is Minister for Regulation.

But regulations, generally, are the product of a piece of primary legislation which is the property of a particular minister. Ministers may react adversely to Seymour poking his nose into what they might regard as their own business.

His role as an associate Minister of Finance may become his most important.

Throughout the campaign, he emphasised that ACT wanted a smaller government and an end to wasteful expenditure.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis could usefully charge him with being a one-man razor gang dealing with fat in the public sector.

Seymour’s deputy, Brooke van Velden, has a classic ACT portfolio and workplace relations, allowing her to reinstate 90-day trials, end fair pay agreements and stop work on social insurance. The CTU, which has become re-energised in the past year, will put up a fight, but small businesses will love her.

An ironic unintended consequence might be that her efforts stimulate the Labour Party to return to its working-class union roots.

The new government can also expect resistance to the portfolio of moves it proposes to make concerning Maori and Treaty issues.

Some moves, like requiring the public service to put English names for departments first, will excite social media, but the more fundamental question of having a Select Committee look at the principles of the Treaty potentially has enormous consequences.

At the heart of the matter is the concept outlined by Appeal Court Judge Robin Cook in 1987 that the Treaty is about a partnership between two races.

This has allowed the courts to interpret legislation with that partnership requirement in the background, and it has been one of the forces driving co-governance.

It has been challenged by the prominent ethnologist Dame Anne Salmond and even the former Chief Justice, Dame Sian Elias, who has said she wasn’t sure whether the Treaty was about partnership.

However, the Select Committee, whilst it may be a fascinating academic exercise with an enormous ability to influence the debate, is unlikely to agree to a referendum, as Peters appeared to indicate on Friday when he was asked whether he would support a referendum on any principles defined by the Committee.

“The reality is that what Mr Seymour has asked for, he’s got, and whether that happens will depend on the wisdom of the submissions to the select committee and what new information that the Parliament accepts to be true to take it forward,” he said.

If there is one thing that stands out about the new government compared with the last, it is that there is so much detail in the coalition agreements.

They are like a Speech from the Throne on steroids.

They have set out more than a road map for the government; they are, in effect, lengthy and demanding “to-do” lists.

They will move New Zealand to the right, but that move may seem bigger than it really is because the previous government had moved the country to the left.

Some bits are inexplicable, like the smoking moves and; there will be strong Opposition from outside Parliament on the Treaty moves, the rollback of some of the environmental measures and on workplace reforms.

There are likely to be tensions within the Cabinet sparked by the very different views of the world the three parties have, particularly NZ First versus ACT and, of course, ultimately, any government is a hostage to events and that is where Luxon is unproven.

Otherwise his skills as a manager will be tested to the limit as he tries to implement these very long and demanding policy proposals while he keeps the peace between three potentially incomaptible political parties.