New National Party leader Simon Bridges says he will work to "modernise" the National Party for 2020 but has ruled out a wide-scale reform of its policies, saying it had a strong track record on the economy.

Bridges was elected as National leader after two rounds of voting by National's caucus this morning.

Paula Bennett was re-elected as deputy, beating another MP who stood against her.

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Simon Bridges is National's new leader, while Paula Bennett has retained the deputy's role.

He was not concerned caucus would be divided after the five-way leadership election, saying the way the leadership contest was run had been respectful and friendly.


"I'm very confident from the messages I've already received in caucus that we are going to get in behind myself and we are going to be working hard to hold this Government to account and also win in 2020."

Bridges said he would do a reshuffle in the next fortnight – and would not be drawn on who his finance spokesperson would be.

The fate of Steven Joyce could depend on that reshuffle - Joyce has been campaign manager since 2005 and replaced Bill English as finance minister in 2016 but his prospects under Bridges are uncertain.

"I am confident Steven will have a strong role, should he want that. We all know his strengths both in finance and the economy, but also of course in campaigning. There is a role for Steven after this. I think there is a strong one for the other candidates – Judith, Amy and Mark."

He said his front bench would be a mix of experience and new talent. "It's not about being radical. We can't go into the next election with the same plan we've had, we can't say to voters that nothing has changed. We need to continue to modernise and new talent will have to be part of that."

National would not hold a full policy review. "I don't fundamentally think we got things wrong in terms of the economy … but I do think we need to look at our emphasis in some areas." He said those included the environment and the regions.

The other contestants Judith Collins and Steven Joyce were quick to tweet congratulations to Bridges and Bennett. In her tweet, Collins said Leader of the Opposition was the hardest job in Parliament. "Simon knows he has my full support."

She also tweeted a thank you to those who had publicly supported her. "I am very grateful and will stay true to our principles."


Bridges is the first Maori leader of the National Party and Bennett is also Maori. Bridges said he hoped Maori would now give National "a second look".

"I want to appeal to a broad cross range of New Zealanders, because I think that's what the strength of the National Party is. So I hope Maori, who have traditionally been with NZ First at times, with Labour, will give us a second look, will think about us and what we mean and the opportunities we represent for Maori."

Bridges said they also shared "proud Westie" roots – he had grown up in Te Atatu while Bennett has long lived in West Auckland and is MP for Upper Harbour.

Bridges also promise to let New Zealanders get to know him better.

"I will also signal in speeches what sort of leader I will be. New Zealanders have a right to know me better and also understand National's broad direction under me.

We all bring our backgrounds and experiences. For me, that's someone who grew up in West Auckland, who was empowered by higher education, that spent nearly a decade in Tauranga, in regional New Zealand doing jury trials, serious crime, criminal trials every day. I bring all of that with me."

He said he was "humbled" to be elected and his focus was on getting back into Government in 2020.

National leadership contender Simon Bridges on his way into their caucus, with fingers crossed, stops to answer some questions. / Video by Mark Mitchell

Bridges' wife Natalie stood alongside him as he held his press conference. The pair have young children and Bridges said the family was ready for the new job.

Bridges' decision to refocus policy around the regions indicates he is not willing to give ground to NZ First, which is targeting the regions for itself. He said any future relationship between NZ First and National was a question for NZ First.

"I think fundamentally it's a question for them. Would they go with us? We know the answer to that at the last election and I think it's a question of whether they would re-visit that rather than us."

He said the Provincial Development Fund was trading in on National's own work in the regions and was a "slush fund".

He said the Green Party would offer opportunities for National to work with if it focused on the environment rather than "bits and bobs."

The first test of that would be if Nick Smith's bill to establish the Kermadec marine sanctuary.