Prime Minister Ardern names NZ’s first Tongan-born cabinet minister’s portfolios

New Zealand new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced Tongan-born Jenny Salesa is the new Minister for Building and Construction.

She is also the Minister for Ethnic Communities and Associate Minister for Housing and Urban Development, for Associate Health and Associate Education.

Hon. Carmel Sepuloni who is of Tongan decent was  appointed Minister for Social Development; Disability Issues. Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Pacific Peoples.

PM Ardern, who will take on the portfolios of arts, culture and heritage, and national security and intelligence as well as being responsible for child poverty reduction, made the announcement in a press conference this morning.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has been confirmed as Deputy Prime Minister.

Deputy Peters will also hold the ministerial portfolios of Foreign Affairs, State Owned Enterprises, and Racing.

“I am honoured to be appointed as a Minister in this ambitious Labour-led Government, which has the mandate to tackle New Zealand’s housing crisis, the recent years of funding cuts and neglect in health and education and to ensure that economic growth delivers for all Kiwis,” Hon. Salesa said.

“It is a huge responsibility and I am excited to play a role in building a better New Zealand in which all New Zealanders will thrive.

“I am looking forward to briefings from the pertinent government departments about the key issues in my portfolios and knuckling down to work.”

Jenny Salesa was the first woman who was born and raised in Tonga to become a New Zealand Member of Parliament.

“I am immensely proud, as an immigrant and as a Pacific woman, to show that anyone who comes here can dream big and can be successful, through perseverance and hard work, at whatever they set out to do.

“New Zealand was a land of opportunity for me and as a Cabinet Minister I can play a part in ensuring it remains so for everyone who chooses to live here”, says Jenny Salesa.

CABINET (RNZ reported):

    • Jacinda Ardern: Prime Minister, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage; National Security and Intelligence; Child Poverty Reduction
    • Winston Peters (NZ First): Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs; State Owned Enterprises; Racing
    • Kelvin Davis: Minister for Crown/Māori Relations; Corrections; Tourism; Associate Minister of Education (Māori ed)
    • Grant Robertson: Minister of Finance (incl regulatory reform); Sport and Recreation; Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
    • Phil Twyford: Minister of Housing and Urban Development; Transport
    • Megan Woods: Minister of Energy and Resources; Greater Christchurch Regeneration; Research, Science and Innovation; Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission
    • Chris Hipkins: Minister of Education; State Services; Leader of the House; Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services
    • Andrew Little: Minister of Justice; Courts; Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations; Minister Responsible for the GCSB; NZSIS; Pike River Re-entry
    • Carmel Sepuloni: Minister for Social Development; Disability Issues. Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage; Pacific Peoples
    • David Clark: Minister of Health; Associate Minister of Finance
    • David Parker: Attorney-General; Minister for Economic Development; Environment; Trade and Export Growth; Associate Minister of Finance
    • Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Minister for Māori Development; Local Government; Associate Minister for the Environment
    • Stuart Nash: Minister of Police; Fisheries; Revenue; Small Business
    • Iain Lees-Galloway: Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety; Immigration; ACC; Deputy Leader of the House
    • Jenny Salesa: Minister for Building and Construction; Ethnic Communities; Associate Minister of Education; Health; Housing and Urban Development
    • Hon Damien O’Connor: Minister of Agriculture; Biosecurity; Food Safety; Rural Communities; Associate Minister of Trade and Export Growth
    • Clare Curran: Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media; Government Digital Services; Associate Minister for ACC; State Services (Open Government)
    • Ron Mark (NZ First): Minister of Defence; Veterans
    • Tracey Martin (NZ First): Minister for Children; Internal Affairs; Seniors; Associate Minister of Education
    • Hon Shane Jones (NZ First): Minister of Forestry; Infrastructure; Regional Economic Development; Associate Minister of Finance; Transport


    • Kris Faafoi: Minister of Civil Defence; Commerce and Consumer Affairs; Associate Minister of Immigration
    • Peeni Henare: Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector; Whānau Ora; Youth; Associate Minister for Social Development
    • Willie Jackson: Minister of Employment; Associate Minister for Māori Development
    • Aupito William Sio: Minister for Pacific Peoples; Associate Minister for Courts; Justice
    • Meka Whaitiri: Minister of Customs; Associate Minister of Agriculture; Associate Minister for Crown/Māori Relations; Associate Minister of Local Government


    • James Shaw (Greens): Minister for Climate Change; Statistics; Associate Minister of Finance
    • Julie Anne Genter (Greens): Minister for Women; Associate Minister of Health; Transport
    • Eugenie Sage (Greens): Minister of Conservation; Land Information; Associate Minister for the Environment


  • Michael Wood: Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Communities
  • Fletcher Tabuteau (NZ First): Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs; Regional Economic Development
  • Jan Logie (Greens): Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues)

About Jenny Salesa:

Jenny Salesa is also the first Cabinet Minister from the Manukau East electorate.Jenny Salesa is affiliated to Lotofoa, Ha’apai and Nuku’alofa, Tonga, and Tefisi, Vava’u. She moved to New Zealand when she was 16 to further her education.

Her commitment to warm, dry affordable housing springs from her family’s experiences of homelessness in their first 2–3 years in New Zealand, which were spent moving from family to family in South Auckland and living in overcrowded conditions.

She attended the University of Auckland, graduating with degrees in Education and Law (BA/LLB).

While there, she helped found the Pacific Island Law Students’ Association (PILSA).

She had over 20 years’ experience in policy, as a health specialist, as a funder and senior official in the Health and Education sectors as well as community development in New Zealand and the US before entering Parliament in 2014.


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