Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today unveiled what has been termed an "incredibly diverse" cabinet that includes New Zealand's first openly gay deputy prime minister and a foreign minister with a Maori face tattoo.
The center-left leader revised her ministerial roster following a landslide election victory, saying her priorities for the second term are responding to Covid-19 and promoting economic recovery.
Ardern named Grant Robertson Deputy Prime Minister, making him the first openly gay person to hold this role.
Women and the Maori community are also well represented in the 20-person cabinet, including the new Secretary of State Nanaia Mahuta, who wears a moko kauae – a traditional Maori female tattoo on her chin.
Jacinda Ardern appointed Nanaia Mahuta, who wears a moko kauae – a traditional Maori female tattoo on her chin – as Foreign Minister. Above, the couple pictured in Sydney after the Indigenous Peoples Cooperation Agreement was signed with Australia on February 28th
Mahuta, the first woman to become New Zealand Secretary of State, delivered a speech today in Wellington, New Zealand
While Ardern took pride in the diversity of her cabinet, he also said that appointments were made on the basis of merit.
"It's both a cabinet of great merit and talent that is also incredibly diverse," said the 40-year-old.
"I think it's an important point – these are people who have been promoted for what they bring to the cabinet. They also reflect the New Zealand that voted them."
Robertson, 49, was Ardern's right-hand man for a long time – he controlled the government's wallets during her first term as Treasury Secretary and was the chief strategist of her campaign.
The New Zealand Prime Minister named Grant Robertson the first openly gay deputy prime minister in the country's history. Above, the 49-year-old comes to a Labor Party meeting on October 20 in Wellington, New Zealand
Robertson was Ardern's right-hand man for a long time – he was the chief strategist of their campaign. Above, the couple at a Labor Party rally in Wellington on October 11th
The MP's role – which he will hold along with the finance and infrastructure portfolios – formalizes his position and will make him incumbent Prime Minister when Ardern is overseas.
When asked about the importance of a gay man as a surrogate, Ardern said Robertson was chosen for his leadership skills, not his identity.
"One of the amazing things about New Zealand is that we often find ourselves in a room where these issues become secondary," she said.
Mahuta, the first woman to become New Zealand's foreign minister, was elected to parliament in 1996 but received the traditional tattoo at her daughter's insistence in 2016.
The distinctive decoration is unique to her even though it contains design elements specific to her iwi or tribe. The male moko covers the entire face.
At the time, Mahuta said the tattoo was a way to both honor their ancestors and reduce the stigma surrounding an aspect of Maori culture that many New Zealanders have linked to crime and gangs.
Above, the newly appointed Foreign Minister with Australian Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt during the signing of the Indigenous Peoples Cooperation Agreement with Australia on February 28 in Sydney
"She's someone who builds fantastic relationships very, very quickly, and that's one of the key roles in an external role," said Ardern of her new chief diplomat.
The Maori and Pacific islanders make up just under a quarter of the population, but are heavily overrepresented in crime, poverty and prison statistics.
Ardern said it was just a coincidence that their ministers for Justice, Courts, Domestic Violence, Corrections and the Police were from these communities.
"My focus was only on choosing the best person for the job," she said.
Ardern won the October 17th election campaign over New Zealand's success with coronavirus. Her cabinet includes a new role as Minister for the Response to Covid-19, which was filled by former Health Secretary Chris Hipkins.
She said the change would allow Hipkins to focus on issues like border control and controlled isolation without distracting from the broader health portfolio.
While Ardern won the election by an absolute majority, meaning that her Labor Party can rule alone, she also appointed two Green lawmakers to ministries outside the cabinet.
One Greens co-chair, James Shaw, will become Secretary of State for Climate Change and the other, Marama Davidson, will have a portfolio focused on preventing domestic and sexual violence.
The government will be sworn in on Friday.
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