Bill English is New Zealand's new Prime Minister.

Barring formalities on Monday and the signing of an official warrant, English has been confirmed as the new leader of the nation this afternoon.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister's victory was sealed when Health Minister Jonathan Coleman withdrew from the race - the latest chapter in an eventful day at Parliament.

The third candidate, Corrections Minister Judith Collins, pulled out hours earlier when it became apparent that English had the numbers to win a vote scheduled for Monday.

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Addressing media after Coleman's concession, English thanked the other candidates for a "civil, constructive" contest.

Although his selection is all but completed, he would not comment on any Prime Ministerial plans while the leadership selection process was still underway.

"While it appears that I'm likely to have the support of the caucus on Monday, that hasn't happened. So I'm not going to be making pronouncements as an assumed leader of the party.

"We will deal with any policy issues on Monday."

However, he did say he would take a different approach to departing Prime Minister John Key.

Key was "unique" and he wouldn't "be able to do it the same way as John", he said.

English would not say whether he would endorse a deputy.

His rise to the top job comes 14 years after he was last leader and led National its heaviest-ever election defeat.

"I didn't really expect [this]," he said. "This has all happened pretty fast. It's really only not even three days since John Key stood down.

"So I haven't really had time to reflect on it to be honest.... I suppose over the next day or two I'll have time to reflect on it."

Coleman conceded defeat at 4.30pm this afternoon.

"I would like to congratulate the next Prime Minister of New Zealand, Bill English" Coleman told reporters at Parliament this afternoon.

Coleman initially dismissed English's level of support as "speculation" and said he needed more time to consider his position. But two and a half hours later, he threw in the towel.

The contest was sparked by the shock resignation of Prime Minister John Key on Monday.

Coleman says he has congratulated Bill English and English will have his full support.

"I'm not disappointed because I believe in life if you go in to win you have to be prepared for the alternative result."

Coleman would not endorse any candidate for deputy.

Coleman would not say whether his concession was part of a deal to hold onto the health portfolio. He was "not fixated" on his portfolio, he said.

Bill English, Judith Collins and Jonathan Coleman were the contenders for Prime Minister coming into today.
Bill English, Judith Collins and Jonathan Coleman were the contenders for Prime Minister coming into today.

Earlier, Judith Collins pulled out of the race and put her support behind English.

At least 30 MPs have committed to backing English, meaning he has half of the votes of National's 59-vote caucus.

When English vacates the Finance Minister's post to take over, he will be appointing Steven Joyce as Finance Minister.

English made the announcement about Joyce today to reporters while talking about the half yearly opening of the books at the Treasury.

"He is the most capable person in the caucus of doing the job," he said.

"He has got a fantastic set of skills."

Joyce is currently Economic Development Minister with a vast empire in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Simon Bridges, who is seeking the deputy's job, is likely to be a top contender for Economic Development but Amy Adams and Gerry Brownlee could also be seeking it.

Joyce will be inheriting a healthy set of surplus forecasts, the Half Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) shows.

It is the "hockey-stick" upturn in surpluses that outgoing Prime Minister John Key referred to last week Treasury forecasts the current year to end with $473 surplus - which would have been $1 billion more if the immediate costs of the recent Kaikoura earthquakes had not been factored in.

But surpluses rise steeply in following years to $3.3 billion, $5.3 billion, $6.7 billion and $8.5 billion in the 2020 - 2021.

Treasury estimate the total cost of the Kaikoura earthquake to the Crown to be $2 billion to $3 billion, while Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler today put the total cost to the economy at $8 billion.

English became Finance Minister in 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis.

The National MPs who have declared their support for English:

• Bill English
• Judith Collins
• Nikki Kaye
• Anne Tolley
• Louise Upston
• Michael Woodhouse
• Hekia Parata
• Nathan Guy
• John Key
• Nuk Korako
• Nick Smith
• Chester Borrows
• Murray McCully
• Simon Bridges
• Paula Bennett
• Paul Foster-Bell
• Jacqui Dean
• Brett Hudson
• Jonathan Young
• Jami-Lee Ross
• Todd Muller
• Chris Bishop
• Amy Adams
• Mark Mitchell
• Alfred Ngaro
• Barbara Kuriger
• Jono Naylor
• Todd Barclay
• Chris Finlayson
• Jo Hayes
• Steven Joyce
• Craig Foss
• Paul Goldsmith
• Todd McClay