Labour leader David Shearer has put five new people onto his front bench and given the number five slot to David Cunliffe - the man he defeated as Labour leader last week.

Mr Cunliffe has lost his finance portfolio and previous number 3 ranking to David Parker - but has managed to get the significant economic portfolio of economic development.

Jacinda Ardern has received a significant promotion from 19 to 4, and becomes Labour's highest ranked woman. Ms Ardern will handle the social development portfolio, putting her head to head with Minister Paula Bennett during a period of welfare reform.

As expected David Parker has taken the finance role, and Shane Jones has been boosted from 13 to the front bench. He will take a new 'regional development' portfolio and is an associate finance spokesman.

Advertisement

Mr Shearer said the team focused on new areas of priority including the environment - a portfolio given to his deputy Grant Robertson - and rebuilding links with business and provincial New Zealand.

"I have built a team that brings forward new faces."

However, he was also giving senior responsibilities to experienced MPs.

"We are going to change the tone and we are going to take a fresh look at our priorities."

Mr Shearer was elected Labour's leader by caucus last Tuesday after a two-week campaign for the job against David Cunliffe.

Since then Mr Cunliffe has refused to say if he would accept a front bench slot, saying he wanted time to consider what he wanted to do.

Despite speculation Mr Cunliffe was holding out for a higher ranking or over portfolio offers, Mr Shearer said his original offer was for the number five slot and economic development. Mr Cunliffe had taken some time to consider it, but had accepted it.

Mr Shearer had refused to promise the MPs jobs during the campaign for the leadership, saying he did not want to restrict his options of putting together a team. As well as merit, his line up is a sign he is hoping to mend any ructions the competition may have caused.

The front bench line up is Mr Shearer, Grant Robertson, David Parker (Finance), Jacinda Ardern (Social Development), David Cunliffe (Economic Development), Clayton Cosgrove (State Owned Enterprises and Commerce), Shane Jones (Regional Development, Fisheries), Nanaia Mahuta (Education).

Maryan Street is ranked at number nine and collects the significant Health portfolio.

Mr Shearer said Mr Cunliffe's retention of a significant role was because of his obvious talent.

"I think he will do a really good job."

Mr Shearer said Clayton Cosgrove was the "bulldog" in Parliament, who would lead the battle opposing National's state owned assets programme.

In a break from tradition, only the first 20 - the shadow Cabinet - have been ranked.

Usually it is only new MPs who do not receive rankings, but Mr Shearer's unranked MPs include several senior MPs including Ruth Dyson, Sue Moroney and Parekura Horomia. Mr Horomia will keep the Maori Affairs portfolio.

Mr Shearer said the lack of rankings was not a sign he was expecting those MPs to stand down, although at least one - Parekura Horomia - had indicated he would be leaving at some point.

Former Labour leader Phil Goff is ranked at 16 - and gets the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. His former deputy Annette King is at 17 and takes on Housing and Local Government.

Other MPs to receive significant promotions - although off the front bench - including Su'a William Sio at number 10 (previously 16). He takes Employment and Pacific Island Affairs.

Phil Twyford was also boosted from 17 to 11 and gets Transport and Auckland Issue.

Mr Shearer said his rankings were primarily talent driven although there was consideration of other issues such as representation of women.

However, Labour only has two women on its front bench - compared to National's three.

Mr Shearer said Labour had more women in its top 20 than National.

Trevor Mallard is ranked at 12 and will stay as Shadow Leader of the House.

Charles Chauvel takes Justice and is Shadow Attorney General. He is ranked at 13, alongside Lianne Dalziel at 14, who will be the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery spokesperson.