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Reshuffle could be easier than expected

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/12/2016

© Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Prime Minister Bill English's cabinet reshuffle could be less painful than had been anticipated now that another minister has decided it's time to go.

Sam Lotu-Iiga on Tuesday joined Education Minister Hekia Parata in deciding not to stand for re-election next year.

He said he was ready to give up his local government, ethnic communities and Pacific peoples' and associate health portfolios.

That opens two slots for newcomers, and there could be more by the end of the week.

Mr English will announce the cabinet on Sunday with ministers being sworn in the following Tuesday.

The only appointment so far has been Steven Joyce to replace Mr English as finance minister.

There's been speculation around ministerial sackings, with Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith mentioned as a potential casualty.

But Mr English appeared to rule that out on Tuesday when he said people who questioned Dr Smith's competence were wrong.

He said the minister was doing a good job dealing with a complex issue.

Mr Lotu-Iiga said the possibility of demotion wasn't a factor in his decision.

"I cannot in all good consciousness see myself doing this role for the next four years," he said.

Mr English is believed to be well into his decision-making and he isn't planning to hold another caucus meeting before Sunday's announcement.

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