New Minister outside Cabinet Michael Woodhouse enjoys the
sun in the Octagon yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Michael Woodhouse will get to wear a Christmas present
far earlier than expected, when he is sworn in next week as a
Minister outside Cabinet.
The Dunedin-based list MP was yesterday elevated to
Immigration Minister, Veterans' Affairs Minister and
Associate Transport Minister.
His daughter Emily (14) gave Mr Woodhouse a cobalt blue tie
for Christmas, which he told her he would save and wear when
he became a minister. While he was being interviewed by the
Otago Daily Times, Emily phoned to congratulate her father,
who promised to wear the tie on Thursday next week when he is
sworn in by the Governor-General.
As chief whip, it was always expected Mr Woodhouse (47) would
eventually become a minister but even he was surprised to
take a call from Prime Minister John Key at 10.30am, telling
him of his promotion.
''That is a huge call to take, obviously. I am hitting the
ground running. After a busy year as chief whip, I was rested
and recharged and ready to resume that role.
''It's been a fantastic four years and a privilege to serve
Dunedin and others in New Zealand.''
Mr Woodhouse yesterday became the first National Party MP to
become a minister while living in the city. Others who were
born in Dunedin had gone on in other electorates in New
Zealand, in the days of first-past-the-post, to subsequently
There have been three previous National MPs in the city - the
late Sir James Barnes served two terms from the snap 1951
election until 1957, the late Richard Walls served one term,
1975-78, and Katherine Rich was a list MP from 1999 until
Mr Woodhouse said Dunedin had been well served in the past by
Labour Party Cabinet ministers. He felt it significant to
join the ''club'' of ministers he admired - Pete Hodgson,
Stan Rodger and Sir Michael Cullen - as a National Party MP.
Two years ago, Mr Woodhouse told the ODT his aspirations
involved being appointed as a minister. Yesterday, he said no
MP went into Parliament to make up the numbers on the
backbenches. He had been helped by getting select committee
appointments that reflected his interests. The skills he had
learned as a chief executive of Mercy Hospital had been
applied to his role as chief whip.
''My demographic is well represented - a middle-aged Pakeha
New Zealander. I combined that with hard work, becoming
regarded as a safe pair of hands and being confident in the
House. I left the rest up to the leadership team.''
Mr Woodhouse was excited about the immigration portfolio
because of its importance to business and the Government's
growth agenda. Superimposing immigration on to the rebuilding
of Christchurch created important policy issues to deal with,
Veterans' affairs also had issues that needed to be dealt
with immediately, such as the implementation of many of the
Law Commission's recommendations to support veterans.
Planning for the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing
was also under way. It would be marked on Anzac Day, 2015.
Asked to comment on other changes in Cabinet, Mr Woodhouse
said he was not surprised to see Simon Bridges promoted or
that Amy Adams retained environment.
''I am delighted to see Nick Smith return. He is a mentor to
me and we have worked closely together.''
He was also pleased he would be working with Nikki Kaye, who
has become Food Safety Minister and also Associate
Ms Kaye, who joined Young Nationals in Dunedin at the behest
of Mrs Rich, gained two degrees from the University of Otago.
Dunedin South MP Clare Curran congratulated Mr Woodhouse and
said she had left a message asking for his help on an urgent
Ms Curran was scathing in December about the prospects of Mr
Woodhouse becoming a minister, after the two clashed over the
closure of the Hillside workshops.
''Good on him for getting the position. It's a credit to the
work he has done in Wellington. But it won't stop me
criticising his lack of attention to Dunedin issues. We do
need more representation from a local list MP based in
Dunedin and a commitment to the future of Dunedin. We don't
see a lot of that,'' she said yesterday.