Dr Bryce Edwards – Who’s advising the new National Government?


Who will the new National Government listen to when it decides how to govern? An early indication may be seen in who Prime Minister-elect Christopher Luxon has brought in to train his new MPs and ministers.

It was reported on Monday by Newstalk ZB that, because Luxon acknowledges his team’s lack of governing experience, the party has brought in some senior figures from the past. Luxon told Mike Hosking that Steven Joyce, Bill English and Wayne Eagleson have been coaching his caucus on how to be MPs and ministers, and how to lead the public service.

Of course, it’s not unusual for new governments to bring in party veterans to help guide the new administration and teach them some tricks. For example, when Jacinda Ardern was setting up the last government, she called on Heather Simpson, who had been Helen Clark’s Chief of Staff, to help train the new MPs and Ministers.

Joyce, English and Eagleson are not only some of the most senior figures from John Key’s former administration, they are also now involved in corporate lobbying and other private sector pursuits.

Wayne Eagleson: Beehive Chief turned lobbyist

Wayne Eagleson was one of the last National Government’s most powerful players, yet he was almost unknown to the public. As Chief of Staff he ran the Beehive on behalf of National prime ministers John Key and Bill English, from 2008 to 2017. When Key was prime minister he described Eagleson as New Zealand’s “most influential unelected official”.

Eagleson was part of the core negotiating team, alongside English and Steven Joyce, who tried to persuade Winston Peters to go into coalition government with National in 2017. They failed, and in fact, Peters went on to take legal action against the three of them, blaming them for being involved in the leaking of his personal superannuation information in the leadup to the 2017 election.

On leaving the Beehive, Eagleson established Wayne Eagleson Consulting Limited, and then joined lobbying firm Thompson Lewis. That firm was led by GJ Thompson, who stepped down as a lobbyist for five months to be Chief of Staff for the new Jacinda Ardern Labour-led Government.

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When Eagleson shifted almost straight from the Beehive to being a lobbyist he explained he was “looking forward to using the experience I have gained in the Beehive and prior to that as a senior corporate affairs manager.” GJ Thompson said the deal with Eagleson to bring him on board was done “over a couple of beers”, with Thompson explaining that it was beneficial to have someone from National to balance the lobbying firm’s links to Labour: “In New Zealand, you can’t afford to be too partisan.”

Steven Joyce: Minister of Everything, and now Adviser on Everything?

Steven Joyce has been a major figure in National for the last two decades. He led the restructuring of the party in the Don Brash years, and then ran National’s election campaigns from 2005 to 2017. Coming into Parliament in 2008 he was immediately appointed as a Cabinet Minister, and eventually became Minister of Finance (as well as becoming known as The Minister of Everything and Mr Fixit).

Joyce was a businessman before entering politics, and returned to this in 2018, setting up Joyce Advisory, a company specialising in business strategy, consultancy, brand management and reputation. In addition, Joyce has been appointed to and employed by an array of businesses, from property development to engineering. Some of these clients have developed close relationships with the National Party under leader Christopher Luxon.

The most politically controversial business Joyce has joined is the major property developer Winton, a company that has been locked in a legal battle with the Labour Government. In Opposition National was supportive of Winton, with Housing Spokesperson Chris Bishop even putting out a press release backing them.

Winton is also seen as a prime beneficiary of National’s new policy of partially abolishing the ban on house sales to foreign buyers. If implemented, all properties over $2m could be sold to wealthy foreigners, increasing the market and demand for the houses being sold by property developers like Winton. For this reason, political commentator Matthew Hooton suggested in the Herald that, “incredibly”, the policy had been created “with the help of lobbyists” for “the property-development industries”.

Joyce has also been connected with other National Party policies. RNZ’s Guyon Espiner uncovered how closely the University of Waikato worked with the National Party on its promise to create a new $300m medical training school in Hamilton. Joyce’s consultancy company Joyce Advisory was paid nearly a million dollars for helping with “lobbying advice” on such issues. Waikato University even helped pay for National’s announcement, and vice chancellor Neil Quigley emailed Health Spokesperson Shane Reti to say the policy could be “a present” to a future National government.

As well as giving “lobbying advice” to Waikato University, Joyce is now on the University’s Management School Business Advisory Board. He’s also a company director for a number of businesses – Icehouse Ventures (a venture capital fund manager), Hammerforce (a technology and IP company), and RCP (a property and construction project management consultancy).

Bill English: A post-political career in business

Former Prime Minister Bill English is incredibly well-connected in Wellington politics-business circles. Since leaving Parliament in 2018 after 28 years as one of New Zealand’s most influential politicians, he’s taken on a number of big roles in business.

The most interesting has been as the founder and chair of ImpactLab, which English describes as specialising in “using data to support better decision making by measuring social impact”. Essentially the company works with the private and community sector in work related to big data and social investment modelling. Their website states: “We’re on a mission to connect decision-makers with information they can act on to grow their impact.” The say their clients are “charitable services, primary health entities and social enterprises” and that the business aims to “partner with philanthropic foundations and trusts, private donors, and government agencies.”

New National MP Emma Chatterton has also joined the National caucus from ImpactLab, after working there for the last four years.

This week English warned the incoming government that he thought that the existing public service wasn’t going to be able to deliver all the reforms and programmes that National wanted. He was reported as saying there was an answer to the shortfall outside of the state: “On the plus side, covid funding, in particular, had helped strengthen a wide range of community, iwi and non-governmental organisations’ ability to deliver social services at the grassroots level far more effectively than central government agencies.”

English is also the director or chair of a number of other companies: Todd Corporation, Wesfarmers Ltd, Manawanui, and Mt Cook Alpine Salmon.

The need to keep scrutinising National’s advisers

Luxon’s National Government is fortunate to have the help of Eagleson, Joyce and English – they will be extremely useful in training and advising National’s new MPs and Ministers. But the fact that all three are now deeply involved in the business sector, and to some degree will be helping their business interests lobby government and navigate the political landscape, raises questions about potential conflicts of interest.

And what of other lobbyists who will shift into new jobs in the Beehive? We are starting to see who some of the individuals taking up the top jobs will be. For example, former National staffer Jo de Joux has been running a lobbying company in recent years but has now been appointed National Party General Manager after successfully running National’s election campaign.

The Beehive has also employed a new press secretary, Rebecca Dunlay who has a six-year background working in PR-lobbying company Convergence Communications & Marketing. Matt Young comes into Beehive comms from a career with PR companies like Pead PR and Anthem. And Lesley Hamilton comes straight from being the Communications Manager for Seafood New Zealand.

Any new government is vulnerable to being captured by vested interests as they start restructuring, so it’s important to have public scrutiny of who is coming into the Beehive as advisers, trainers, or spin doctors. When these people come from lobbying and corporate PR backgrounds, it’s wise to ask who might benefit from those connections.


Dr Bryce Edwards is the Political Analyst in Residence at Victoria University of Wellington. He is the director of the Democracy Project.


    • Yep…right on….they are about as corrupt as you can get…

      I would not be waxing lyrical about that motely bunch of conmen..

      Joyce was seen regularly down at my local cafe having ‘meetings’ with Erica Stanford over the past few years.

      The shape of the ‘meetings’ were, him talking …a lot …. and her silently writing furiously!

      This current National Party is basically the old hopeless National Party wearing different clothes..

      They won’t go the full 3 years …It is impossible for them to live up to any of their promises and expectations without creating absolute carnage!!

      • A week ago you where saying they could not win and Labour was turning the tide of discontent. Well the tide actually washed them away and reached spots they did not think were venerable like Auckland.
        The lose will take years to recover from while Greens and TPM will be moping up those true left leaning people.

        • Let’s not kid ourselves…

          National did not win the election …
          They bought the election…in effect.. gumming the ball across the line..
          Both they, and Act, lost every single debate by a significant margin no matter the subject, and Luxon was rated far less trustworthy than Hipkins by a significant margin..
          National received 10 million dollars in donations..
          Thus buying propaganda coverage like no other, plus the daily 1ZB propaganda machine.

          Act received ovrr 4 million plus free use of a private jet and a Cessna.

          Labour 1.7 million…
          Greens 2.5 million

          That was not a democratic election…
          National are temporarily in charge but will be gone in under 3 years.
          Buying an election does not equal competence in running a country!

        • Trevor the right did not win by 90 % to 10 %, it was marginal. I can only suggest the biggest influence was the wealth that backed the right, the influence on the media, the advertising, hell even the right suggest Luxon was not the reason for the right winning. More money beats lesser money every time.

  1. So true @ Bryce Edward’s. Transparency has never been a feature of politics, even democratic jurisdictions let alone dictatorships. Investigative journalism needs to hold government to account, particularly the incumbent coalition given the vested interests of big money, lobbyists and advisors.

      • Big money wins every time Krauty. If I put $1 a win on a ten-dollar shot and you put $10 on a ten dollar shot who wins? Simple math, more than enough said.

  2. “But the fact that all three are now deeply involved in the business sector…..raises questions about potential conflicts of interest.”

    Hey, it’s not as if the ministers in this government will have undisclosed shares in companies that are included in their ministerial portfolio, you know, like the previous government. LOL

    And which is worse, links into the business sector or into union movement? Personally, I prefer the former.

    • Lucky Andrew Bayley wasn’t in government but when he was, did he disclose his shares Andrew? Or is that one we’ll never ever know about. It’s nice to know you prefer corruption however.

    • It’s ok if you are in opposition even if you do sit on select committees. No doubt plenty of NatActNZF people will be talking to accountants and lawyers right now.

  3. Who is advising the Natzos? doh–crony capitalists–conflicts of interest are taken as read! It is a feature not a bug for the parasite class.

    A small enjoyment really is the long wait for the grumps, sheep shaggers, Māori haters, incels and gun lovers to see their new Govt. installed while they sweat it out for a bit longer.

  4. They could use Kiri Alan’s new consultancy firm, although I suspect all her coin will come from the maori party and the greens…be interesting to see her tax returns next year and see how are her main customers/clients/pay masters.

  5. National could give 20 percent of the tax take to the Russians and still have a more efficient government.
    Labour’s mismanagement of the country has no peer in NZ history.

  6. A week ago you where saying they could not win and Labour was turning the tide of discontent. Well the tide actually washed them away and reached spots they did not think were venerable like Auckland.
    The lose will take years to recover from while Greens and TPM will be moping up those true left leaning people.

  7. You reckon the names of that mob will be broadcast and highlighted as much as I have heard the the scornful expression in the past six years: ‘Māori elite’ ?

    An ‘elite’ group apparently was running much of the country and in the throes of a total over.
    The rabid racists don’t have it in their few brain cells to accommodate the idea that the likes of Joyce and Eagleson continue to orchestrate the economic elite and always will.

  8. Joyces consultancy business got a million dollars for his new medical school plan for Waikato University all this from a party that said it will cut back on spending and consultants is now creating more bureaucracy. It would be better use of the money to invests in our two existing med schools.

  9. Joyces consultancy business got a million dollars for his new medical school plan for Waikato University all this from a party that said it will cut back on spending and consultants is now creating more bureaucracy. It would be better use of the money to invests in our two existing med schools.

  10. I am looking forward to reading your spin Trev when Nationals shit starts hitting the fan cause its already started with Reti retracting on his promises for Whangarei hospital.

    • Plus Dunedin, Hawkes Bay, Nelson and Palmerston North.

      Reti owns Shares in a Whangarei Private hospital which surely is a conflict of interest.

    • Yep Covid not a brain cell between the lot of them. Latst week Edwards was bemoaning the Labour lobbyists, thse now pale into insignificance compared to the Nats I wonder who was paying these Nat lobbyists while they were in opposition . If people think the coalition of chaos won’t use consultants they must be dreaming


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