Kate Wilkinson (politician)

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Kate Wilkinson
Kate Wilkinson crop.jpg
38th Minister of Labour
In office
19 November 2008 – 5 November 2012
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded byTrevor Mallard
Succeeded byChris Finlayson (acting)
Minister for Food Safety
In office
19 November 2008 – 22 January 2013
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded byLianne Dalziel
Succeeded byNikki Kaye
Minister of Conservation
In office
27 January 2010 – 22 January 2013
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded byTim Groser
Succeeded byNick Smith
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for National Party List
In office
6 October 2005 – 26 November 2011
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Waimakariri
In office
26 November 2011 – 14 August 2014
Preceded byClayton Cosgrove
Succeeded byMatthew Doocey
Personal details
Born (1957-08-03) 3 August 1957 (age 63)
Rakaia, New Zealand
NationalityNew Zealand
Political partyNational Party
Alma materUniversity of Canterbury
OccupationLawyer, politician

Catherine Joan "Kate" Wilkinson (born 3 August 1957) is a New Zealand farmer and politician. She was a member of the New Zealand House of Representatives for the National Party from 2005 until her retirement in 2014. From 2008 until January 2013, she was a member of cabinet, holding the portfolios of Labour (from which she resigned over the Pike River Mine disaster), Conservation, Food Safety, and Associate Immigration, before being removed from cabinet by Prime Minister John Key.

Early life and career before politics[edit]

Wilkinson was raised on a Mid Canterbury mixed cropping farm at Chertsey and went to St Margaret's College secondary school in Christchurch. And going on to gained a law degree from the University of Canterbury.[citation needed][2]

She worked as a lawyer for 25 years with a Christchurch firm Harman & co before gaining election to Parliament in 2005.[2][citation needed]

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2005–2008 48th List 38 National
2008–2011 49th List 30 National
2011–2014 50th Waimakariri 17 National

In the 2005 election, Wilkinson was a candidate for the National Party, standing in the Waimakariri electorate and ranked 38th on the party list. She entered Parliament as a list MP.[3] She has made a successful start to her career in politics, rising to 28th on the list, and eventually becoming a Cabinet minister. Although unsuccessful in terms of electorate vote again (losing to incumbent Clayton Cosgrove of the Labour Party by 390 votes in the 2008 election – the second narrowest margin in the country), National won a commanding margin in the party vote.

In the 2011 election Wilkinson overturned incumbent Clayton Cosgrove's 390 vote majority to win by 642 votes, as well as winning the party vote in the electorate by more than 12,000 votes.[4]

In the 49th and 50th New Zealand Parliaments, Wilkinson served as Associate Minister of Conservation (2009–2010), Minister of Conservation (2010–2013),[5] Minister for Food Safety (until 2013), Associate Minister of Immigration (until 2013), and Minister of Labour (2011–2012).[6]

Folic acid criticism[edit]

Wilkinson was criticised for her decision not to mandate the addition of folic acid to bread sold to the public. Paediatric Society Doctor Andrew Marshall said "making folic acid mandatory would prevent 10 to 20 birth defects, such as spina bifida, a year", as well as strokes and other disease.[7]

Resignation as Minister of Labour[edit]

Wilkinson resigned her portfolio as Minister of Labour on 5 November 2012, following the publication of the Royal Commission of Inquiry's report into the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster. It stated that there were major flaws in the Department of Labour, and recommended "sweeping changes" into the department.[8] In a statement, Prime Minister John Key said, "Ms Wilkinson's decision to resign is a personal decision in response to the magnitude of the tragedy. It is the honourable thing to do. I considered it proper for me to accept her resignation from the Labour portfolio." She retained her other portfolios and was succeeded in the Labour portfolio by Chris Finlayson.

Wilkinson however was not asked to step down from her other portfolios in Conservation, Food Safety, and Associate Immigration.[9] She was removed from cabinet in the reshuffle of January 2013.[6]

On 31 January 2013 Wilkinson was granted the right to retain the title of The Honourable for life in recognition of her term as a Member of the Executive Council of New Zealand.[10]

Retirement from politics[edit]

Wilkinson announced in November 2013 that she would retire at the end of the term of the 50th Parliament.[1] At the time, it was rumoured that political newcomer Matthew Doocey, who contested the 2013 Christchurch East by-election, was going to replace her as the candidate in the Waimakariri electorate;[1] this proved to be correct.[11] Doocey was selected to replace Wilkinson and retained the seat with a lightly increased majority at the 2014 election.

Post-political career[edit]

Following her departure from politics, Wilkinson returned to Swannanoa in Canterbury to look after her family farming interests.[citation needed] She was appointed Commissioner of the Environment Court in May 2015.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Conway, Glenn (8 November 2013). "Wilkinson to fall on her sword". The Press. p. A7.
  2. ^ a b "About Kate – Hon Kate Wilkinson MP". 10 August 2013. Archived from the original on 10 August 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  3. ^ "New Zealand Parliament – Wilkinson, Kate". Parliament.nz. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  4. ^ New Zealand Electoral Commission. "Official Count Results – Waimakariri". Electionresults.org.nz. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  5. ^ "John Key announces Cabinet reshuffle". The New Zealand Herald. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
  6. ^ a b "Nick Smith returns to Cabinet". The Press. 22 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  7. ^ "Folic acid decision 'missed opportunity'". One News. TVNZ. 1 September 2012. Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Charge Pike River bosses, families say". Stuff.co.nz. Auckland. 5 November 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  9. ^ "Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson resigns in Pike River report fallout". 3 News NZ. 5 November 2012.
  10. ^ "Retention of the Title 'The Honourable'" (31 January 2013) 11 The New Zealand Gazette 359 at 379.
  11. ^ Cooper, Emily (8 September 2014). "Cosgrove fights to win back Waimakariri". 3 News. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Kate Wilkinson appointed to Environment Court". The New Zealand Herald. 27 May 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015.

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Clayton Cosgrove
Member of Parliament for Waimakariri
Succeeded by
Matthew Doocey
Political offices
Preceded by
Trevor Mallard
Minister of Labour
Succeeded by
Chris Finlayson (acting)
Preceded by
Tim Groser
Minister of Conservation
Succeeded by
Nick Smith
Preceded by
Lianne Dalziel
Minister for Food Safety
Succeeded by
Nikki Kaye