Key Points:

Shortland Street

actress Laurie Foell will not return to the soap opera set next year - but her character Justine Jones will live on.

South Pacific Pictures, which makes the show, said Foell's departure was a "mutual decision by the actor and the producers".

Advertisement

Foell, who formerly starred on Australian soap

Home and Away

, will be replaced by New Zealand actress Lucy Wigmore, making Jones the first

Shortland Street

character to be played by multiple actors.

Wigmore will take over when production resumes in January. Foell is expected to return to her native Australia.

An experienced theatre actor, Wigmore trained at Toi Whakaari-New Zealand Drama School. Shortland Street will be Wigmore's first ongoing television role.

Shortland Street

producer Jason Daniel said Justine Jones was a popular character, central to both current and upcoming storylines, hence the decision to recast the role.

Although it is the first recasting for

Shortland Street

, it is a common practice in soap operas and long-running series around the world.

British soap

Coronation Street

has seen four incarnations of the core character Tracey Barlow since she was introduced in 1977.

Shortland Street

was named Favourite New Zealand Show at the 2006 Qantas Television Awards on Saturday night.