National MPs have emerged from their first policy sessions at their caucus retreat in Hamilton today and say the internal ructions of the previous year are behind them.
National spent the last few months of last year dealing with the fallout of Jami-Lee Ross, who quit the caucus - and was also expelled from caucus - released recorded conversations that embarrassed leader Simon Bridges, and laid a police complaint over election donations.
Ross also named Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie as someone he had an affair with, and the retreat at Novotel was the first time Dowie faced the media after police confirmed an investigation into a text message that she allegedly sent to Ross that included the words "you deserve to die".
The text message raised questions over whether there was a breach of the Harmful Digital Communications Act, which makes it illegal to urge someone to self-harm.
Rodney MP Mark Mitchell said the sessions this morning were about "heavy lifting policy work", and that the challenges of the previous year were behind them.
"I don't think we're going to have the sort of internal issues to deal with this year that we had last year. We obviously had some challenges. Simon did an outstanding job of dealing with those. But they're behind us now."
Judith Collins, who was only 1 percentage point behind Bridges in the preferred Prime Minister stakes in the latest 1 News Colmar Brunton Poll, said that the name Jami-Lee Ross hadn't featured.
"Everyone's smiling, everyone's happy."
The caucus rallied behind Bridges following Ross' expulsion, and Mitchell - who previously contested the party leadership - said Bridges would be the party leader for the 2020 election campaign.
"Simon will be our leader going into 2020, I assure you."
National is planning to prepare eight discussion documents this year and the retreat sessions today - closed to media - were about building up policy ideas.
"We have to show New Zealand that we're ready to govern again and that we've got an outward-looking and positive set of policies and agenda and vision as a country in 2020," Mitchell said.
"We don't have any weak links. We are a very strong, united team."
Immigration spokesman Michael Woodhouse said last year was as strong a year "as any Opposition has had, ever".
"The mood is good. The energy is high. The policy ideas are running thick and fast and there's plenty to attack the Government on."
Earlier today, Dowie arrived at the retreat and told media that police had not contacted her in relation to the inquiry.
She declined to comment on her relationship with Ross, but said she had no intention of standing down while the investigation was under way.
"I am committed to the people of Invercargill, just as I always have [been].
"If there is a police investigation under way, it would be inappropriate for me to comment."
Bridges and deputy leader Paula Bennett spent most of the day answering media questions about Dowie.
Bridges said the National Party backed Dowie and did not think the saga had brought the party into disrepute.
It was a "tough situation for her", but he did not think she should stand down during the police investigation.
He described the text as "regrettable" and "not something I would condone".
Bennett told media that the investigation was not a distraction for the party - although it was for the media.