Who should take Nick Smith’s Portfolios?

Nick Smith left two important portfolios. Environment and Local Government. Also Climate Change.

Local Government

Local Government is not that difficult as just about everyone hates councils, and Nick was going to rinse them in a highly popular move that stopped them wasting money on dumb stuff and reigned in their borrowing. The problem is not many in cabinet are interested in Local Government as it is the minor leagues.

Nathan Guy has a background in Local Government, but there is concerns he is an administrator not a leader, and a combination of patch protecting local body representatives and Sir Humphrey’s might slow down reform under Nathan’s watch.

Gerry Brownlee currently has the portfolio on a temporary basis but is known for dodging work as much as salads, so can be expected to pass it on to someone else asap, Unless someone can make Local Government look like a nice meat pie then he will pounce on it with vigour.

From outside of cabinet Chris Tremain comes with a good reputation for getting things done and taking people with him at the same time. Has a good strategic brain and is willing to front foot issues, as well as being in the thick of amalgamation in Hawkes Bay, where small minded halfwits on councils don’t want to lose their income stream. Could sell the policy well.


This is a much more nuanced portfolio that requires someone with detailed knowledge built up over many years, as well as the relationships with lots of angry greenies who have given up hugging trees to bash politicians. The nuance factor also causes problems, as a number of ministers, especially those from the South Island, wouldn’t know a nuance until it snuck up behind them and whacked them with a baseball bat.

Disrupting the current cabinet would not be ideal, so those outside cabinet might be a better bet.

Chris Finlayson is currently the placeholder minister, and will likely be adept in most areas except stakeholder management. Known for his understandable dislike of morons, in an area heavily populated by stakeholder morons Chris might be better taking on another portfolio.

Chris Tremain doesn’t have a background in the Environment but is known to be concerned about water quality and is exceptionally good with stakeholders so is worth a look.

Chester Borrows doesn’t really fit this portfolio, nor does Maurice Williamson. Williamson has an abiding belief that greenies are judder bars in the road toward progress.

Those not currently ministers who have green credentials include Nikki Kaye, Louise Upston and Nicky Wagner. Nikki Kaye is probably too much of a light weight to take on a portfolio where attention to detail and mastery of information is important or you will get stitched up by your department. There is of course the slight stench of Boag around Nikki Kaye.

Louise would have no trouble dealing with the detail and work load, and has been adept in negotiating difficult environmental issues in her electorate. May not have the depth of stakeholder relationships required, but would build them quickly.

Nicky Wagner has the relationships with the tree huggers, NGOs and other groups and the years of detailed learning required to be able to talk to them. Not in favour with the McCully clique which is ten points in her favour in my eyes, but this may count against perhaps the best placed MP to deal with the portfolio.

Climate Change

I have well known views on manbearpig and thinks it is a portfolio that should be abolished, or if not abolished given to a man with a gay ute.


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  • Evan Johnson

    The Nick Smith affair has visibly shaken the National Party caucus and I must say John Key seems rather unconvincing in his attempts to shrug this off. 

    I say Local Government needs a bulldozer with plenty of hours on the clock, and to me it would make best sense to leave it to Gerry Brownlee if the government is serious about reform.  I accept that his main contribution may be mopping up savouries at functions relating to local govenrment Cameron, if you say so – but maybe that is all he personally needs to do – other than staring down critics with his granite-like deneanour – the Bill Birch touch!Peter Dunne could also do Local Government.  He has the ability to bulldoze (without taking notice of naysayers)    He might take that as a compliment.

    As an alternative what about Anne (Chopper) Tolley or Judith (Crusher) Collins.  Tolley is good at deflecting reasonable people.  Judith is Jenny Shipley reborn.  Both are sadly under-utilised.  For that matter Hekia Parata shows little promise in Education – why not move her on sooner rather than later?

    We are really looking for a proxy for Rodney Hide but we can’t have him – but what about John Banks?  The most experienced and qualified locall government MP in the House!
    Chris Tremain should be Minister of Sport, in hour of his Dad, the great Kel.Chris  Finlayson for the Environment for sure.  Climate Change is part of that.

    • I always thought Banks should of taken Local Government – would of made Auckland Council literally shit itself on the way out. 

      However I am struggling to think who would be best at Local Government – sadly we can not create a Clone Army of Crusher Collins to deal with wayward issues around the country so we are stuck there. Although she could replace Key as Prime Minister although in doing that I can hear Muldoon’s voice coming from the grave.

      Oh well I am sure Key will figure something out

    • Brighton Belle

      Oh my what a picture, Bob parker being confronted by John Banks… now that would be worth watching.

  • Joshua

    For Local Government I think Anne Tolley should be considered on your list. She was a regional councillor, a city councillor and a deputy mayor. Plus, Corrections and Police can’t take up THAT much of her time can they? I think the Local Government portfolio will need a minister with some time to spare because with the reforms going through, and at quite a rapid pace, it needs someone who can focus on getting up-to-speed quickly and travelling around meeting local communities and councils to sell the idea. Thoughts?

  • Evan Johnson

    I don’t see Anne Tolley travelling around and selling ideas.  She pushes ideas, she does not sell them.  And the local governments won’t like what they are going to hear anyway.  

    What you need is familiarity with Local Government, the lowest level known to manking.

    You rightly point out that having been regional councillor, city councillor and (heaven spare us) deputy mayor – she knows how to keep local body politicians in their place.  

    It comes down to Tolley or Banks – I think I see a consensus emerging here.  But don’t forget Brownlee.  It is just a matter of how many portfolios he can dominate at once.

  • Groans

    Great opportunity to get rid of the climate change nonsense.  Perhaps a new ministry looking at getting more men into V8’s. 

  • Brighton Belle

    I think that Brownlee should hang on to local government it needs a total grazing and cleansing he is about the only one that Marryatt and Parker have any real fear of.  Build a strong fearless team to work with him and sort out all the councils – with an audit and streamlining being the order of the day.

  • Troy

    Supposedly Smith will go to the backbenches, so promoting a more senior backbencher seems the more logical thing to do – does the replacement portfolio holder have to necessarily be a current minister?