Prime Minister John Key's reshuffle has seen the ascension of Paula Bennett to become National's highest ranked woman - up from nine to five on the front bench and into the slot vacated in the resignation of Judith Collins.

Ms Bennett loses Social Development - just after she overtook former Labour Minister Steve Maharey to claim the throne of longest serving welfare spokeswoman.

As well as new portfolios of State Services and Social Housing to add to Local Government, she was handpicked by Mr Key to be his associate minister for tourism and gets some associate finance roles under Bill English - an answer to her request for some economic work rather than social areas.

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Paula Bennett, Jonathan Coleman, Amy Adams and Simon Bridges have consolidated their status as the National Government's rising stars taking meaty portfolios and gaining several places in Prime Minister John Key's new Cabinet.

She has also shed the Social Development portfolio in which she drove major welfare reforms over the past six years - a job Anne Tolley will now pick up. However it was her work in that portfolio driving the reforms without significant opposition that earned her the respect of Mr Key - and Ms Bennett's stocks also rose after the demise for Judith Collins. She has kept a foot in the social sector with her social housing portfolio.

Ms Bennett said housing portfolios were critical - and one of the most important areas to help reduce poverty.

Mr Key has made it clear that those he rewarded today were those he considered part of his "succession" plan. Ms Bennett said she was happy being in Cabinet - but would not rule out future aspirations.

Read more: John Key unveils new Cabinet line-up

'I'm very pleased with where I am'

The reshuffle was not as kind on Education Minister Hekia Parata who was bumped off the front bench down to tenth ranked minister but she claims she is delighted to have kept the education portfolio.

Ms Parata has had a mixed tenure as education minister - including the botched handling of class size policy, issues with Novopay and being at loggerheads with teacher unions over policies from National Standards and the more recent proposal to reward the best teachers.

She said despite that she had asked Key to keep her in the portfolio.

"I'm absolutely delighted about it. In every portfolio there is stuff that is challenging, but the upside of education is truly extraordinary."


Asked if she was disappointed to have dropped down, she said the Cabinet line up was very strong. "I think the Prime Minister has done an outstanding job. I'm very pleased with where I am and I'm very pleased with who makes up the rest of Cabinet."

She said the Prime Minister had made it clear that National needed to plan for the future.

She hoped she would be able to sort out an acceptable compromise between the Government and primary teachers' union over National's plans to reward strong teachers and principals and use them to mentor others - something the union rejected although the secondary union PPTA was working on it.

No change from formula

New Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says he will take a leaf from the Life of Ryall in his own approach to the portfolio rather than launch into major shakeups.

Dr Coleman said the portfolio was a good fit with his former career as a doctor and he intended to follow the slow but steady approach of former minister Tony Ryall because it was proven successful. "Tony has managed the portfolio excellently so I think it would be foolish to make any sudden massive changes. And I think he has laid down a good template for the management of health."

One area of focus that was close to his own heart was the management of chronic illnessses such as diabetes, and childrens' health.

"There are long terms challenges aroud diabetes and obesity. It's that burden of chronic disease that really has a really negative impact in terms of quality of life and useful years lost."

He said health was a constantly changing area and different challenges would emerge over time. "But I will be looking to carry on in the same vein in terms of returning the same excellent results. He's been the most successful health minister in memory so changing that or deviating from that formula would be a bit unwise I think."

He said he would stick to some of the same priorities but was yet to consider them with officials. National has set out some formal targets, such as around immunisations, waiting times and elective surgeries, which he would continue to work toward. The elevation to the health portfolio also lifted Dr Coleman from 10th to 6th ranked minister - and onto the front bench.

Mr Coleman's previous defence portfolio will go to Gerry Brownlee. Dr Coleman also picked up the Sport and Recreation portfolio which Prime Minister John Key said was because of the link up between obesity issues across the two portfolios. Murray McCully retains some responsibilities in high performance sport as associate minister - including the America's Cup and Olympics.

'You'll also see us surprise a few people'

Simon Bridges also rocketed up the rankings from 18th to take the final slot on the front bench at 9. He said the Prime Minister had given him a sense of what he could expect "but it's even better than I thought."

The former lawyer picks up Transport from Gerry Brownlee as well as keeping his previous Energy and Resources portfolio - a combination which is likely to ensure he is even more of a target for the Green Party than before.

He said the two linked together well in the infrastructure area - and said his environmentalist critics might be surprised by his approach.

"It's right to say this is a Government that has been clear there are opportunities in petroleum that we should be realising and it's also true that in transport we've spent unpredecented sums in roading infrastructure.

"But I also want to show the balance there is - and in the next three years I want to do a lot of work in renewables for energy. For transport, we will continue to do work in conventional transport networks but I think you'll also see us surprise a few people in some of the things we do in areas such as cycling and potentially other areas."

He said he had not received any donations from transport or energy sector groups toward his election campaign.

'I had wanted to strut my stuff'

Whanganui MP Chester Borrows admits he is disappointed not to get another term "to strut my stuff" as a minister but says getting the nod to be Deputy Speaker's role is some consolation.

In his reshuffle, Prime Minister John Key removed Mr Borrows as a minister, saying he wanted to nominate him as Deputy Speaker under David Carter instead. Mr Borrows was Minister of Courts and said he had hoped to get into Cabinet but understood Mr Key's decision.

"But what they need is someone who can work across the House. I'd always hoped to get some sort of Speaker role at some stage, but I had wanted to strut my stuff a bit more first."

Former deputy Eric Roy and associate Speaker Ross Robertson left at the election - and Mr Key's decision indicates Mr Borrows is seen as a potential successor for current Speaker David Carter if Mr Carter leaves this term or at the next election. Mr Borrows said he would have to spend some time boning up on Parliament's rules.

Speaker roles are best filled by people who have respect across Parliament and Mr Borrows is widely liked, as well as being a former police man and lawyer - all of which are skills that will come in handy as Parliament's referee.

Mr Key said National will nominate Mr Carter again - the Speaker, deputy and associates are all elected by Parliament and at least one is usually an Opposition MP.

Despite Mr Borrows' slight disappointment by his own fate, he said he was delighted by his friend Paula Bennett's success. He had worked as her associate in the past.

National's Epsom candidate Paul Goldsmith is a new addition to the ministerial ranks getting Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Although he did not manage to go straight into Cabinet like Maggie Barry, he will take some solace from being higher ranked than Act's David Seymour who is an under-secretary. Mr Goldmsith said he did not see his elevation as a reward for agreeing not to campaign for the electorate vote in Epsom to ensure Mr Seymour won the seat - saying the Prime Minister had not even mentioned it to him. Mr Key made it clear an elevation to Cabinet was likely in future.

Amy Adams is another elevated onto the front bench and picks up the Justice portfolio which was held by Judith Collins prior to her resignation, as well as Courts and Broadcasting, adding to her former Communications role. She said they were a good fit and she was looking forward to getting back into the legal area with the Justice portfolio.

She will also be charged with undertaking any changes to MMP if National revisits its stance on the system although she said yesterday it was far too early to look at such issues. Ms Collins had rejected all recommendations made after 2011.