• Nick Smith becomes Minister of Building and Construction under new guise

    Minister Nick Smith has survived the National Party cabinet reshuffle.

    Dr Smith, who is a close friend of Prime Minister Bill English, retains his newly-named portfolio despite opposition parties and pundits predicting that he would be a high-profile casualty in the new look Government.

    Smith is now the Minister of Building and Construction, instead of the Minister of Building and Housing.

    The name change doesn’t affect his role, with Smith still in charge of regulations, building standards and housing affordability.

    Amy Adams will take over from English in overseeing state housing.

    English described the decision as “consolidating” the portfolio and said it was a logical move, given its vast scope.

    “We’ve got a minister of social housing and Nick Smith is essentially a planning minister. Those are two complex functions and I wouldn’t try to put them all together into one job – it would be bigger than half the rest of the cabinet put together,” English told Radio New Zealand.

    Labour Party housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said the government wanted to avoid taking responsibility for failures in that area.

    “I think it’s really strange that in this reshuffle, not only are they denying the crisis is a problem, they’re denying it exists by writing it out of the official list of ministerial responsibilities,” he said.

    Smith has come under criticism for not doing enough to stop increasing house and rental prices around the country, particularly in Auckland, where the average house price has soared to over $1 million.