Ron Mark has long been touted as a future leader of NZ First and has now captured the deputy spot.

When the inevitable question about succeeding Winston Peters is asked, Mr Mark has his answer ready.

"Winston is yet to peak," he says. "He is the heaviest hitting piece of artillery in the House right now, and I don't see that changing for quite some time.

"I have always enjoyed running shotgun for the boss, and happy to keep doing that for as long as he wants."


Mr Peters issued a statement this morning confirming caucus had voted to replace Tracey Martin with Mr Mark.

According to widespread Parliamentary rumours the initial caucus vote earlier this week ended in a stalemate, with one MP, said to be Richard Prosser, later switching their allegiance to Mr Mark.

Mr Peters, who is currently travelling to Tonga, was believed to have supported Ms Martin.

Mr Mark refused to discuss the vote this afternoon, saying it was confidential and each member's position was kept secret.

"The question always come around and those who feel they can do the job put their hands up, and I did.

"It's not a question of doing it better. It is my fifth term in Parliament, I have been with the party since 1996. I had things to offer, and so too did Tracey. I take my hat off to her, she's a first-term MP, thrown in the deep end, and she did a bloody good job."

Mr Mark was ranked ninth on the NZ First list at the last election.

He was a list MP from the 1996 election until NZ First failed to retain any seats in Parliament in the 2008 election.

Mr Mark was elected mayor of Carterton in 2010 and retained the position in the 2013 election.

While he has long been viewed as a potential leader, the removal of Ms Martin from the deputy position was not widely expected, particularly because many current MPs owe favourable positions on the party list to her influence.

A former Rodney Local Board member, Ms Martin entered Parliament after the 2011 election as number two on the NZ First list.

Her mother, Anne Martin, was elected president in October 2013 after serving as party secretary for six years, and the two were part of a five-strong panel that decides the party list.

This afternoon, Tracey Martin said she had no hard feelings and always expected a vote to be held, as it was for other positions in the party.

"I was the best deputy leader at the time, for the last caucus. But I absolutely believe that Ron, with the political experience, is the best deputy now. So I am feeling fine about the change."

Asked about the change to two male leaders, Ms Martin said she was a feminist and strong felt there should be more women in Parliament and in political leadership.

"Do I think that this decision was made because of the gender of the people involved? No, I don't.

"But part of the time that I am going to use now that I've got it, is to encourage more women to come into politics."

Mr Mark was blunter, saying the party was a meritocracy and had no quotas: "we are not the Labour Party".

Known for his combative style around Parliament, Mr Mark in May apologised after he was caught swearing on a live microphone in Parliament's debating chamber.

He was also filmed giving the fingers to National MP Tau Henare across the debating chamber in 2006.

Mr Mark was raised as a ward of the state and grew up in a number of foster homes, and after joining the army at 16 went on to serve as an officer including on a peace keeping mission in Israel and Egypt.

That military background is reflected in the description of his new role.

"2IC is admin and logistics. So my job is to support the boss in every way he expects, requires and demands."

With coup rumours swirling around Parliament earlier this week, National's Gerry Brownlee described Mr Mark as "New Zealand's answer to George Speight" - the jumped-up Fiji coup leader.

Today, the new NZ First deputy, who once helped coach a school 1st XV team in Christchurch at the same time as Mr Brownlee coached a rival team, didn't pass up his chance to fire back.

"I have known Gerry for a long, long time. He doesn't do too bad for a woodwork teacher - a failed woodwork teacher from St Bede's."