Kris Faafoi has endured in politics thanks to his safe pair of hands - and his ability to laugh himself out of tricky situations, writes Claire Trevett.
Toward the end of a 90-minute drive with the Weekend Herald, Kris Faafoi says every time he does such ventures "I find I laugh more than I realise I laugh."
He did indeed laugh a lot.
It helped him navigate his way through several tricky situations from the saga of his first political porkie and Judith Collins' chances of taking over as National leader to his derring-do in nicking one of NZ First leader Winston Peters' staff members.
He also laughed his way out of numerous digs about his success in overcoming Labour's (thus far unsuccessful) determination to have an even gender split in Cabinet.
He had made the mistake of not preparing an itinerary for the trip around his Mana electorate, north of Wellington, saying we would simply "go with the flow".
The Weekend Herald immediately suggested the flow took us to the site of the first McDonald's to open in New Zealand.
That big event took place in Porirua in June 1976.
It also prompted Faafoi's first political porkie.
During the 2010 Mana by-election which got him into Parliament, he had claimed he remembered it opening.
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It transpired it opened two weeks before Faafoi was even born.
Faafoi prefers to categorise this as a "misspeak" rather than a porkie.
"I misspoke. But there is a photo of the opening of the Porirua McDonald's, quite helpfully with a very young child that looks like me in the frame.
"[it was] my first lesson in being much more precise with my words. You can recall something was the first place to open but you can't say you remember it opening."
The McDonald's is no longer there, but the lesson remains: "misspeaks" will follow you for a long time.
Faafoi wisely chooses to laugh about this rather than fight it.
When we get to the site of the McDonald's (now a construction site), he is asked if the warm glow of nostalgia is upon him.
"Yes," he replies. "Give me a moment, please."
Faafoi had earlier declined to undertake a road trip with the Weekend Herald.
That was presumably because he is not stupid and did not want to be seen to be promoting himself ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle.
He had many champions doing that for him, none of whom were overly helpful.
They included National MP Judith Collins, many other National MPs, right-wing commentators and media personalities.
Their motives were not necessarily honorable: many believed the main obstacle to his success was his gender.
He was a man and Cabinet had a shortage of women.
Asked if he believes that had held him back, Faafoi says he had not seen it that way.
"And, in a way, I think I am just as much of a fan of making sure we have as many women in positions as we can, so personally it didn't bother me."
Given that, it is something of an irony that all Faafoi's forward steps in politics have been because of women leaving in front of him.
The Mana by-election in 2010, which was his pathway to Parliament, was because Winnie Laban retired from politics.
The space that opened up for him in Cabinet was because of the resignation of Clare Curran as a minister.
Faafoi's chance to prove himself worthy was also partly because of taking on the portfolios of Curran (broadcasting) and Meka Whaitiri (customs).
He was the repository of vagrant portfolios. He was that most precious of all things: a safe pair of hands.
And he made the most of it.
As Consumer Affairs and Commerce Minister, he took on ticket scalpers such as Viagogo, the insurance market, wheel clampers and loan sharks.
"I happen to have some sympathy for the people who get ripped off," Faafoi says.
He picked up on pleas to allow those with life-shortening conditions to withdraw KiwiSaver early and made it happen.
He ordered an inquiry into petrol pricing – although the political benefits in that were somewhat undone by the Government's moves to increase petrol taxes.
Then there was Civil Defence. Faafoi dealt with floods in the Coromandel and the Tasman fires, and he was also involved in the Civil Defence aspects of the Christchurch mosque shootings.
While many other rookie ministers have foundered, Faafoi is yet to make a big, or even medium-sized mistake.
Faafoi names former rugby league great Steve Price as a role model.
"He said he wasn't necessarily the most talented person in a team but he loved playing rugby league.
"So he thought his way to being an extremely good rugby league player without having the natural gift and talent of others was to just knuckle down and get on with it."
Faafoi identifies with this, saying he knows there are areas he is not strong at.
"The key is to work hard to make sure I can meet the standards that I think are expected of me.
"So sometimes you just work on a day-to-day basis of getting a job done. And so far it seems I've been able to do a good job of it. And I'm hoping to continue in that fashion."
He says Price also made sacrifices to get where he was.
That sacrifice was giving up alcohol.
At this, an eyebrow was raised in the passenger seat, where there was a recollection of Faafoi enjoying an occasional tipple and seeing a few whisky bottles in his house.
"Well, I was just explaining he had made sacrifices," Faafoi explains. "I didn't say I made the same sacrifices."
The sacrifice he made was of time.
"My sacrifice is time. I want to do a really good job. And if you're not a natural policy person or other things don't come naturally, you have to spend more time doing it."
This apparent view of himself as a mediocre person who believes his own mediocrity can be overcome through hard work is remarkably humble for a politician.
It also seems genuine.
As we drive about Porirua, Faafoi delivers a tour.
He points out highlights such as the speed camera – "One of the highest-revenue gathering speed cameras in the country." It has caught him twice.
He points out dining establishments. There is good chop suey at a Samoan shop, and fusion cuisine at the Waitangirua Mall: mashed potato and sausage rolls.
He points out Titahi Bay Golf Club where Michael Campbell was forged: "His dad, Tom, is still up there doing the bizzo."
Then we get to Castor Loop where new state homes are being built.
The old state houses on the site were knocked down in 2009 and the site stayed empty throughout the National Government's reign.
The site also served as a handy venue for Faafoi and a succession of Labour Party leaders to take the media to highlight inaction on state housing.
Finally, in March 2018 after Labour took over, Housing New Zealand announced it would build new units on the land.
Faafoi points at the first signs of work.
"This is exciting. Years of banging on, and I thought maybe it was going to come to nothing, and now look."
State housing is a matter close to his heart.
Faafoi was raised in a state house in Christchurch by his Tokelauan parents until he was about 19.
"I think if our family didn't have that solid house, to be able to live in it for all the schooling years and be part of a community, I can tell you I would not be here right now.
"So, making sure there are enough houses to live in, that they are not crowded, they are safe and warm and they are places where families can flourish is returning the massive privilege I had.
He says growing homelessness is one of his challenges.
Labour is building about 1600 state houses a year and he wants to find a way to make that happen faster, and get people into more permanent housing.
Another focus will be finding a way to get low-income people into home ownership.
That house in Rowley is still there and he goes to see it sometimes. He has also taken his children to see it.
"That house actually means a lot to me. Our family is quite tight, and it's the house I grew up in so if I go down to Christchurch I try and make an effort, just drive past.
"I like to do it to remind myself of where we came from.
"I think it's important to let my kids know that too.
"They've asked about what the house is like inside, et cetera, but I think they're still too young to realise the difference between that house and maybe the houses they live in."
The house Faafoi lives in now is a nice, modern home overlooking a harbour and fields of sheep in the rather nice suburb of Camborne.
Faafoi lives there with his partner, Mae, and their son Theo, as well as Chewie - a delicious, happy-go-lucky schnoodle. Faafoi also has two sons from an earlier marriage, George and Fred.
They moved there from Titahi Bay just before the 2017 election.
Theo starts bawling as we leave, wanting to go with his father.
When this is raised later, Faafoi jokes, "It was all for the cameras."
Faafoi spent a fair bit of time in front of the camera.
He did not like university so left to go to Broadcasting School.
A decade later, after stints overseas and in the TVNZ Parliamentary Press Gallery, he left journalism to become a press secretary to then-leader Phil Goff.
Two years later in 2010, he became an MP.
Faafoi counts himself lucky in both his careers so far, saying they have given him a life he would never have dreamed of.
He also puts his ability to stay out of political trouble down to his background as a journalist.
"You've got a good nose for trouble or when someone is not giving it to you straight.
So if you need to say, 'Oh, I'm not sure about that', that comes naturally out of a journalist's instinct."
He may well need that – his new state housing portfolio will pit him against his former breakfast television partner, Judith Collins, in Parliament, and he has a healthy wariness of Collins.
It is fortunate Faafoi worked in television, for it also gave him great forbearance for the many technological hiccups on the Herald's part.
The Go-Pro cut out repeatedly, the reporter forgot to start recording, a microphone vanished down a top and then ended up hanging out the car door dragging on the road, and a camera flash was dropped in the sea.
Faafoi tried to cheer things up by recalling the time he and his camera operator secured an interview with former Wallabies player Nick Farr-Jones at an airport only to realise halfway through that there was no tape in the camera.
"And Nick Farr-Jones, who was one of my childhood rugby heroes, looked at me and kind of … expressed air from his mouth in a most disappointing way, turned around, got back in the line."
The biggest revelation in this was Faafoi's admission that yet another of his heroes was an Australian.
"What's wrong with that? He was a good rugby player."
This elicits another dig about Labour's gender issue, a quip that he himself clearly believes in merit-based appointments.
Faafoi escapes. "Oh, that was a good one. Hahahaha. I'm not going to respond."
We recover from all of this by going to the new Porirua McDonald's up the road for some sustenance.
As he eats his cheese toastie he puts in a plea not to put it in the story, "because then I'm going to get into trouble with Mae".
There is a pause as he thinks about what he has just said, and then: "I've got a funny feeling it's going to be in there."
Faafoi once said he was proof there was life after television. Now he says he intends to one day also be proof of life after politics.
He has only one goal when that time comes.
"The only job I'd really like to do, and this comes from the time sacrifice because I don't get to spend as much time as I would like to with them, the only job I've got designs on after I finish this gig is to coach their cricket team."
This seems rather a reckless decision, given it will be an unpaid role barring a young Faafoi or three making it into the Black Caps.
He does not seem overly worried.
"No, I'll find a way to live, don't worry about that. Even if it means busking on Cuba St."
As any good Civil Defence Minister should be, he is prepared for this eventuality.
A keen musician, he has a line-up of guitars in pride of place in his living room.
Kris Faafoi, 43
• MP for Mana, Minister of Broadcasting and Communications, Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Minister of Government Digital Services and Associate Housing Minister, charged with state housing.
• Family: Raised in Christchurch by Tokelaun parents, a teacher and a factory worker. Was named after Kris Kristofferson. He was born the same year Kristofferson starred in A Star Is Born (1976). Lives with partner, Mae Puller, and son Theo in Camborne, Porirua. Has two sons from his first marriage.
• Career: Television journalist until 2009, including time at the BBC and in the TVNZ Press Gallery Office.
• Press secretary to former Labour leader Phil Goff before standing for Parliament for Labour in the Mana by-election in 2010, winning the seat.
• Political highlights: Appointed a minister outside Cabinet in 2017. Faafoi was elevated into Cabinet in June as part of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's reshuffle and given the state housing portfolio, as an associate housing minister.