MIDDAY UPDATE: New faces in Cabinet as Key wields axe

Jan. 22 (BusinessDesk) - Prime Minister John Key has brought two new faces to his Cabinet, given a big boost to junior Minister Simon Bridges, and sacked two Ministers from the energy, housing, labour and conservation portfolios.

Labour and Conservation Minister, Kate Wilkinson, and Energy and Housing Minister Phil Heatley are the two primary casualties, although Associate Education Minister Craig Foss has been found wanting for his handling of the Novopay teachers' pay fiasco.

That issue will now be delegated to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, whom Key said was capable of being "tough". The Novopay system providers, Talent2, should regard themselves as being "on notice", Key said.

As expected, he returned Nick Smith to Cabinet, giving him the housing and conservation, while relatively junior Minister Nathan Guy will become Minister of Primary Industries, replacing David Carter, who will become Parliament's Speaker to replace Lockwood Smith, who is to become High Commissioner in London.

Perhaps the biggest winner is Simon Bridges. A novice Associate Minister of Climate Change since last year, Bridges will add the heavyweight energy and labour portfolios and becomes a minister inside Cabinet.

Chris Tremain will become Minister of Local Government, while Hekia Parata will keep education, a role in which Key said she had made some mistakes, but she still had his confidence to continue in the role, where he expected her to perform well.

Work on alternative to Picton as ferry port hots up

Clifford Bay hots up as issue as investigation gears up
Marlborough's mayor is hoping meetings early this year will shed light on why the government is seriously considering a $422 million ferry terminal at Clifford Bay which will knock the economy of Picton.

Marlborough District Council Mayor Alistair Sowman says a meeting he has on Thursday with Andrew Robertson, the management consultant running the Clifford Bay project will be an opportunity to find out more.

The council has also initiated public meetings in February and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee will speak to the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce in March.

"People can't understand why the government wants to do it if it doesn't stack up economically what's the rationale? We're having trouble getting anyone to talk from the government," he said.

The government has assembled a team led by Treasury and transport officials to further investigate building an inter-island road and rail freight port at Clifford Bay in Marlborough. A report is due in the middle of this year and expressions of interest would be called for in 2014.

(BusinessDesk)

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