Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Rising young talent 'excited, humbled'

Nikki Kaye says New Zealand has an opportunity to lead the world in digital education. Picture / Chris Skelton
Nikki Kaye says New Zealand has an opportunity to lead the world in digital education. Picture / Chris Skelton

Nikki Kaye was visiting her 92-year-old grandmother in a Christchurch retirement home yesterday when the Prime Minister called her about her promotion to the Cabinet.

Her grandmother, Mickey Kerr, shed tears of joy. Ms Kaye settled her with a whisky before heading to Wellington.

She said last night: "I feel excited about the opportunity ... humbled because I know I have a huge number of colleagues that are pretty talented, so it's a big responsibility."

Within the party, she has been a controversial figure, hailed for turning Auckland Central blue after years of Labour and Alliance representation and criticised for opposing National's mining policy. But her liberal social and environmental beliefs have made relationships easy with Labour and Green MPs.

Now she has several new jobs; Food Safety Minister, Youth Affairs Minister, Civil Defence Minister and Associate Education with responsibility for digital education.

Ms Kaye, 33 next month, is the youngest woman National has had in the Cabinet. She is single with no children.

"I would call myself a modern-day feminist," she said, "which means I am always going to be a strong advocate for women and women's issues".

It is clear Ms Kaye's immediate enthusiasm is for the Associate Education role in which she will be responsible for digital education.

Since the last election, she has chaired the education select committee which held an inquiry last year into digital education and reported on it just before Christmas.

She will now be overseeing the Government's response to its many recommendations.

The basic vision of the report was to enable more children to have access to online learning and resources.

"In order to do that we need to both invest in infrastructure but also have good device policies, have good policies around professional development for teachers so that we all ensure that whatever community we grow up in, you have access to online learning."

The Government already aims to have ultra-fast broadband links in 97 per cent of schools by 2016.

"But the opportunity is to take it up to another level ... there is a real opportunity to lead the world in this area."

She says the people she admires most in the world are her mother and her grandmother. "I call her Mickey. She is an amazing woman."

Ms Kaye was first elected in 2008 when she beat Labour's Judith Tizard as MP for Auckland Central by 1497 votes. Her majority was cut to 717 in 2011 by Labour's Jacinda Ardern.

Ms Kaye fronted the amendment to keep the drinking age at 18 last year, and has also chaired the education select committee.

She is working with Green MP Kevin Hague on a detailed review of the Care of Children Act 2004 which would also legalise adoption by gay couples.

She is also a keen athlete - and is currently training for the Coast to Coast in early February.

She said she will decide soon whether to go ahead with the race.

A former activist in the Young Nationals, Ms Kaye has also worked in National's parliamentary research unit and in Bill English's office when he was National's leader in 2002 and 2003. She spent time overseas in Britain, including working for Transport for London, the Department of Constitutional Affairs and the Halifax Bank of Scotland.

She was head girl at the private Corran School in Auckland and gained a BSc from Otago University in genetics.

- NZ Herald

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