Commerce Minister seen as an engaging politician with a safe pair of hands, writes Fran O'Sullivan.
Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi is the politician that most impresses top chief executives on their ministerial performance in this year's Herald CEOs survey.
It is first time in the history of the Mood of the Boardroom survey that a minister ranked towards the tail-end of Cabinet at 17th position, and who has only been in the position since January, has substantially outranked his colleagues.
But Faafoi, rated at 3.58/5 for his ministerial performance, trumps not only Finance Minister Grant Robertson (3.52/5) who was last year's top-rated performer in the survey, but also Justice Minister Andrew Little (3.14/5), Trade Minister David Parker (3.08/5), Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (2.93/5) and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters (2.92/5).
CEOs were asked to rate Cabinet Ministers on a scale of 1-5 where 1 equals not impressive and 5 equals very impressive.
"The unsung performers of this cabinet are David Parker and Kris Faafoi," said a leading banker. "Both have reached out to the business community to genuinely ask for our views and listened.
"They can also put government policies in their areas into perspective, painting a broader picture."
Along with Little, who also holds the prime security portfolios, Parker is seen as a highly competent minister.
Faafoi is seen as a safe pair of hands. But more than that he is an engaging politician with a consultative style who listens to business.
The Cabinet is driving change on multiple fronts and some ministers are seen as making better progress in moving the machinery of Government along than others.
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"Some ministers have got the bit between their teeth and are making real progress," said Beca Group chief executive Greg Lowe.
"Ron Mark is having a very positive impact in Defence and Defence Industry, Kris Faafoi shows real understanding, energy and integrity, Megan Woods is pushing us to a better hydrogen future, David Parker is acting on better water quality and Grant Robertson shows a broad understanding of the drivers of economic wellbeing".
Faafoi's portfolios also include Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, Government Digital Services and the associate Housing responsibility. The Prime Minister said on announcing his elevation to Cabinet and membership of a new ministerial housing team led by Megan Woods, that "after nine years of neglect there is a lot to fix in housing. KiwiBuild has not progressed as well or as quickly as we'd hoped or expected. But our ambition to build more affordable houses for New Zealanders has not changed and neither has the public appetite for the Government to be building affordable homes with 60 per cent of voters in a Colmar Brunton poll saying they wanted KiwiBuild to continue".
Unsurprisingly, former Housing Minister Phil Twyford tumbled from seventh on last year's Cabinet survey, where he was scored at 2.77/5, to bottom of the pack this year at 1.61/5 in the wake of the KiwiBuild fiasco.
"Twyford did the right thing to relinquish advocacy of Kiwibuild — a dreadful albatross," said LGFA chair Craig Stobo. "Hipkins' solution to centralise polytechnics doesn't seem to have a problem definition which is very poor policy. Otago and Southland polytechnics seem to be doing very well catering to the needs of locals."
A government relations firm head was pungent. "Twyford's performance in both transport and housing has been appalling. He was lost in housing and, on transport, allowed the Greens to convince him to halt nearly every new roading programme. David Clark is a nice person but hasn't a clue what he's doing in health and Iain Lees-Galloway can't hide the fact he doesn't like the business sector. David Parker is blinded to rational policy with the farming sector."
But others had distinct praise for some Cabinet Ministers. "I strongly suspect that New Zealand owes David Parker a debt of gratitude for getting the renamed TTP ratified, despite all three Coalition partners being strongly opposed to it pre 2017 election," said ICBC NZ chairman Don Brash.
CEO respondents said it has definitely been a tougher year for Ministers. "Lots of money allocated but no evidence of real changes or impact as yet," said a tech services head. "Some of the portfolios require lengthy change programmes but in many areas we should be seeing evidence of significant change and improvements."
Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa had surprised, said a property CEO. "She has taken a complex portfolio, is working hard and is mastering it.
"Woods is impressively smart and is getting to grips with the Housing portfolio remarkably quickly."
Wine exporter Erica Crawford singled out Children's Minister Tracy Martin as the "breakout minister ... she has impressed."
The nine top rated Cabinet Ministers by business are shown in the graphic above.
Other ratings were: Revenue/Small Business Minister Stuart Nash (2.49/5), Energy Minister Megan Woods (2.44/5), Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones (2.43/5) Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni (2.40/5), Education Minister Chris Hipkins (2.34/5), Health Minister David Clark (2.33/5), Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta (2.10/5), Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa (2.01/5), Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis (1.96/5 and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway (1.69/5).