“I think it’s an important point to make – these are individuals who have been promoted for what they bring to the cabinet, they also reflect the New Zealand that elected them.”
Mr Robertson, 49, has long acted as Ms Ardern’s right-hand man – he controlled the government’s purse strings as finance minister during her first term and was chief strategist of her election campaign.
The deputy’s role – which he will hold along with the finance and infrastructure portfolios – formalises his position and will see him become acting prime minister when Ms Ardern is overseas.
Asked about the significance of having a gay man as her second in command, Ms Ardern said Mr Robertson was selected for his leadership abilities, not how he identified.
“One of the amazing things about New Zealand is that we are often in a space where these questions become secondary,” she said.
Ms Mahuta, the first woman to become New Zealand foreign minister, was elected to parliament in 1996 but got the traditional tattoo in 2016 at the urging of her daughter.
The distinctive decoration is unique to her, although it has design elements specific to her iwi, or tribe. The male moko covers the entire face.
At the time, Ms Mahuta said the tattoo was a way to both honour her ancestors and reduce stigma surrounding an aspect of Maori culture that many New Zealanders have associated with crime and gangs.
“She’s someone who builds fantastic relationships very, very quickly and that is one of the key jobs in a foreign affairs role,” Ms Ardern said of her new chief diplomat.
Maori and Pacific islanders comprise just under a quarter of the population but are vastly over-represented in statistics on crime, poverty and prisons.
Ms Ardern said it was simply a coincidence that her ministers for justice, courts, domestic violence, corrections and the police came from these communities.
“My focus was just (choosing the) best person for the job,” she said.