Prime Minister John Key is an honourable man who has given New Zealand great service, Dame Tariana Turia says.

"Of course there's significant issues that have happened, but those issues have been around us for years. Poverty didn't happen yesterday. It's been going on ever since we lost our land," she said.

There has been a new twist on poverty though.

"What we have seen in recent years is a poverty of spirit. People are losing heart."

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As former Maori Party co-leader Dame Tariana worked closely with Mr Key in Parliament. Their relationship was respectful, trusting, open and honest.

"I did enjoy working with him."

She had no special insight into why Mr Key would resign now.

"I think what he is saying is exactly how it is. It's just the time is right for him now."

She only gets in touch with people in government when something needs to be done. The person she usually contacts is deputy Prime Minister Bill English - because Mr Key doesn't have time for "everyday issues".

She would support Mr English as leader "100 per cent".

The National Party was "fairly disciplined", Dame Tariana said. She was not expecting any big changes as a result of Mr Key's resignation.

"But we don't really know until they start to look at the budget."

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"They're not going to change direction too strongly given that the economy is the best it's been for quite a while."