Adams rises, Smith falls in cabinet reshuffle

The Cabinet reshuffle is in support of Amy Adams. Photo: NZ Herald
The Cabinet reshuffle is in support of Amy Adams. Photo: NZ Herald

Bill English's reshuffle marks another rise in the ranks for National's quiet star Amy Adams.

It is also a demotion for Nick Smith, who has now been distanced from any responsibility for the Government's house-building programme.

English today denied any suggestion of a demotion for Smith, saying reporters "should not read into it".

But his appointment of Adams appears to recognise that National is bracing for an election-year fight on housing and that Smith wasn't fit to lead it.

Adams was already responsible for social housing, emergency housing, and Housing New Zealand. She now been given control over the National-led Government's plans to build tens of thousands of homes in the next decade.

Smith's role has been reduced to building regulation, codes, planning and productivity issues.

There are tentative signs that Smith's various initiatives to lift supply in Auckland are gaining some traction. And as English keeps repeating, the problem is not money but space - something which Government has limited control over.

But it is clear that Smith had lost the public argument on housing affordability.

Gradual lifts in building consents will always be overshadowed by pictures of people sleeping in cars and by Auckland's steady rise to the top of the world's unaffordability rankings.

Adams is a highly capable, confident minister, and perhaps most importantly a good communicator.

She has had few noticeable blunders as a minister, with one of few blips being her failure to pass the Government's flagship RMA reforms as Environment Minister.

English is now trusting her with a huge workload. On top of her housing roles, she maintains the large justice portfolio, and is also responsible for the newly created social investment agency.

Data released last week underscored some of the housing challenges she and National face. Nearly $10m was spent on housing homeless people in motels in just three months this year - five times the annual budget for the initiative.

Adams has five months to do what Smith couldn't and at least give the impression that National has the situation under control.

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