Bill English's Cabinet makeover has rewarded two of National's best young ministers with some heavy-lifting duties that will make or break their reputations.

Simon Bridges will take over many of Steven Joyce's responsibilities in Economic Development - and he keeps Transport.

Amy Adams will take over from English himself in overseeing state housing and the social investment approach across the public service - and she keeps Justice.

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have been promoted in Bill English's new Cabinet. Photos / File
Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have been promoted in Bill English's new Cabinet. Photos / File

Both have also been given understudy roles to Steven Joyce as Associate Finance Minister.

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They will allow English to head into election year with a team that is rejuvenated at the top, where it counts, and with one more reshuffle to come to add two new ministers.

"By the time we have completed the reshuffle in May, there will be six new ministers - that is almost a quarter of the Cabinet - and it will be the largest reshuffle for quite some time."

English has moved to keep Judith Collins in check by removing Police and Corrections from her and giving her portfolios from which it will be difficult to build any public following: Revenue, and Energy and Resources. No politician has gained in popularity by being minister in charge of taxation.

It is understood English was not very impressed by Collins using the leadership contest against him to press her case for extra police officers.

Paula Bennett will now get to announce that as the new Minister of Police.

Corrections has gone to Louise Upston, who has been promoted from outside the Cabinet to inside.

Bennett, the Deputy Prime Minister, who gets to choose her own portfolios, is also Minister of Women.

English said Bennett wanted the portfolio and was "a fantastic inspiration to a lot of women, not just women in corporate life or public service but right across our community".

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He praised Adams, too, as a "thorough and energetic" minister who would oversee changes in the public service about how to deliver social investment more effectively.

English has moved to keep Judith Collins in check. Photo / Mark Mitchell
English has moved to keep Judith Collins in check. Photo / Mark Mitchell

English denied Collins had been demoted and she wouldn't comment.

While she was particularly fond of Corrections, she won't be too unhappy with her new mix. With a master's in taxation studies as well as her law degree, she had lobbied John Key in the past for Revenue.

Bridges has clearly received no penalty for initially challenging Paula Bennett for the deputy leadership of the party.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, who challenged English for the leadership, has slipped a place to No 7 in ranking but English said he, Bridges and Adams would be brought into the leadership team - the inner sanctum known as the Kitchen Cabinet.

English has signalled there will be another reshuffle in May to make way for a new Minister of Foreign Affairs when Murray McCully steps down, and a new Minister of Education, which will be Nikki Kaye, now recovering from breast cancer.

Nikki Kaye is set to become the new Education Minister. Photo / Dean Purcell
Nikki Kaye is set to become the new Education Minister. Photo / Dean Purcell

English said he had wanted McCully to say on longer because his own knowledge of foreign affairs was limited.

"It is important that I work with him to get a transition of his knowledge to me ... at the same time as we work out who is going to follow on from Murray."

The staggered reshuffle, with two more vacancies, may help to keep caucus in check.

But it is also likely to set up a three-way contest over the next four months for the Foreign Minister's job among three ministers who want it: Coleman, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and, as a rank outsider, new minister Mark Mitchell, who chaired the foreign affairs and defence committee.

Mitchell had been widely tipped for promotion to a ministerial role, as was Alfred Ngaro, who chaired the social services committee.

Jacqui Dean and David Bennett were more surprising. Both were elected in 2005 and so were passed over three times by John Key when he formed his ministry. But they worked closely with English over several years from which they have now benefited.

Nick Smith, a close friend of English, survived the reshuffle despite a clamour from Opposition parties to dump him. His portfolio has been renamed from Building and Housing to Housing and Construction. Minister of Housing has always been the name given to the minister in charge of state housing and Housing New Zealand. Until now that was English, although he changed it to minister in charge of Housing NZ, and after the reshuffle it will be Amy Adams.

The minister in charge of the regulations, issues and building standards affecting housing affordability has been Smith and after the reshuffle will continue to be Smith.