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National leader Judith Collins has unveiled her party's new portfolios - extending an olive branch to Simon Bridges and giving Todd Muller a senior role.

Former leader Simon Bridges is the fourth highest ranked in her shadow cabinet. He retains his preferred foreign affairs portfolio and the former Crown prosecutor also gets the justice portfolio.

Collins described the man rolled by Muller as leader as "a very hard-working MP and he's highly intelligent".

She said she wasn't punishing Mark Mitchell for running against her for the leadership by dropping him four places and giving the justice portfolio to Bridges.

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Bridges is ranked beneath Paul Goldsmith, who has finance, and Gerry Brownlee – who has been put in charge of Covid-19 recovery, GCSB and SIS. Amy Adams says losing this portfolio prompted her decision today to retire.

Brownlee knows operational issues and how to get things done and Collins said she has absolute confidence in him. He will continue as the chairman of National's election campaign team, supported by Todd McClay.

Collins described Brownlee as "larger than life in every way - he's great".

New National leader Judith Collins unveiled her MPs' new portfolios today. Photo / Mark Mitchell
New National leader Judith Collins unveiled her MPs' new portfolios today. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She confirmed she was retaining all of the staff from Muller's leadership team.

Collins spoke to Muller yesterday and said he was "very happy" with the trade portfolio. He would be on leave for about three weeks and "sounded pretty good yesterday".

National's new leader said she'd been "really buoyed" by comments from the media, her colleagues and former leaders about her being elected.

She planned to make a major announcement tomorrow.

"This is a winning team," Collins told reporters.

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Collins on Kaye, Adams quitting

Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams have both confirmed their resignations today and will not contest the September election.

Collins insisted that Kaye and Adams leaving was not a sign they couldn't work under her leadership.

She also didn't agree it was a case of "rats fleeing a sinking ship".

"People come and go in politics all the time," Collins said.

She noted that the average term of an MP was four years and they'd both been in Parliament since 2008.

Collins said the pair's retirement shouldn't be a "big surprise", noting that Kaye was "very tied up" with the previous leadership role.

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"I'm not so pleased that they're leaving - but I understand it."

Collins said of Kaye: "She is the bravest person I know but she has found the deputy leadership role has taken a big toll on her."

It was important they made the right decisions for themselves and they had Collins' "eternal respect and gratitude".

Collins said she'd spoken to National Party president Peter Goodfellow this morning and things were "in train" to get another candidate for Kaye's Auckland Central seat. There were a few talented people being considered, she said.

Big winners in reshuffle

Collins said she had spoken to every National MP last night.

She has given herself one portfolio - national security.

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Collins said her hardest decision was who didn't get into her shadow cabinet because she had such a talented team.

She said she didn't "give in to pressure", after being asked whether some promotions were in response to criticisms of lack of diversity on the front bench.

There are only two women in the top 12 because a lot of the people were leaving were women, said Collins. But she said she looked to talent, not gender.

New health spokesman Shane Reti - who replaced Michael Woodhouse in the role - has been given a sizable promotion as well: he now ranks number five.

Collins said Reti was not only an excellent medical doctor, but an excellent politician too.

However, Woodhouse remains on the front bench.

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"I made my decision on Michael Woodhouse, that is my decision."

Muller, who quit as leader on Tuesday, has been placed at number eight and now holds the trade portfolio. He will be taking a couple of weeks' leave, Collins said, and he was "very, very happy" to have the trade responsibility.

Collins said she was "very confident" in Muller's integrity.

Nicola Willis gets education – a portfolio previously held by Kaye. Willis had worked "very well" with Kaye who was "absolutely adamant" she should get education, Collins said.

National's new portfolios. Source / National Party
National's new portfolios. Source / National Party

National's new leader said the new line-up shows the "diverse range of talent and wealth of experience among the National Party ranks".

Hutt South MP Chris Bishop has been given the shadow leader of the House responsibility and is promoted to National's front bench.

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Veteran MP Nick Smith is back in the shadow cabinet, with Collins saying he had the most tenacity she had seen in politics "bar my own".

Collins said she did not know when Hamish Walker, who quit after leaking Covid patients' details, would return to Parliament to see out his notice period.

"I am not going to be pushing people when they're dealing with very difficult circumstances just so I can say they turned up

"I feel very strongly that we need to give Hamish his privacy."

She said they "hopefully" wouldn't see National MPs retire every few weeks.

Adams quit over Covid recovery portfolio

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key has praised the pair's contribution - and says new leader Collins now needs the party's "complete support".

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Adams told the Herald she decided to quit when Collins didn't let her keep the Covid-19 recovery portfolio she'd come out of retirement for.

"The thing that convinced me to come back was an offer to lead the Covid recovery policy work. That is a role I really couldn't turn down.

"With the change in leadership - and I supported Judith coming through - she's got an opportunity about how she wants to structure her team.

"And while she made me an offer of a very senior role in her team, it was a different role to the one I'd stayed on for and on that basis I think the time is right for me to revert back to my original decision."

Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams are both retiring from politics as National Party heads into election with Judith Collins in charge. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams are both retiring from politics as National Party heads into election with Judith Collins in charge. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Adams said she would have been open to staying if she was offered the Covid portfolio.

"But that's not the role they saw for me and absolutely the leader's right and I have nothing but support for her leadership and her decision."

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Adams wouldn't say if she voted for Collins but said she was "very happy with the combination that walked out of the caucus room".

Adams said she had "absolutely no regrets" about anything she'd done over the last few months.

"You go into these things because you believe in them and I absolutely believed in what we were doing. I still believe in the work that the party is doing and the caucus is doing.

"It obviously ended in a way that no one would have predicted or hoped and when things change, there are a number of consequent changes that flow from them."

Adams said she'd exchanged a few texts with former leader Todd Muller since his shock resignation on Tuesday.

One of the reasons she and Kaye were able to make the decision to resign was because they were confident the team was in "very good hands".

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Collins had "every chance" of winning the election and Adams believed she would make "an exceptional prime minister".

John Key: Collins needs 'complete support'

Former prime minister Sir John Key said both Kaye and Adams served the National Party "with great distinction, skill and dedication".

"They can both be immensely proud of what they achieved."

Key said it was "a critical time for National Party supporters to give their complete support" to Collins and Brownlee.

Kaye was expected to retain her Auckland Central electorate, where she has previously beaten Jacinda Ardern twice.

Adams had already announced she would be leaving politics but had changed her mind when Muller became leader.

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The loss of two experienced and high-profile female MPs presents a significant headache for Collins, who is due to announce her reshuffle at Parliament at 10am today.

Earlier today Collins thanked Kaye and Amy Adams for their "incredible contributions at very senior levels with consistent dedication to their work and to their constituencies".

"They are both highly skilled professionals who will continue to make a difference in their next careers," Collins said.

"I thank them for everything they have done for the National Party and New Zealand politics over the years, and I wish them the very best for the future."

Kaye: Step up or step out

Kaye told Newstalk ZB this morning that her breast cancer fight had taught her that life can change in a moment.

"I have always believed you step up or step out," she told Mike Yardley.

"I couldn't predict the events with Todd [Muller].

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"Breast cancer has given me a lens on life that is different from other people. Life is very short," said Kaye, who added that she was "okay" health-wise.

She said she felt the "weight of responsibility" quitting so close to the September 19 election, and would fight to help National win.

"People will always find a reason to ask you to stay but I have given 12 years of my life to public service. I have given it everything. I have worked incredibly long hours and I think I'm allowed to choose a decision that's best for me."

Kaye, National's deputy leader for 53 days, described the pressure of leadership as "intense" but said she was "absolutely up for it".

"While it's been a hard period, you have the Hamish Walker situation and obviously the nature of Todd's circumstances - they're difficult but I think I'm absolutely up for that."

Kaye said there were "some extraordinary events that were out of our control" but it was the right thing to step-up to the leadership.

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Adams: 'Judith has my full support'

Adams said today she would not accept a ranking on the National Party list.

"Last year I made the decision that I would retire at this election and accordingly I did not seek nomination for the seat of Selwyn that I have held for 12 years. In May I was asked to stay on as a list-only candidate and take on the role of co-ordinating our Covid-19 Recovery policy framework," she said in a statement.

"As I said at that time I decided to stay because with the scale of challenges the country was facing, I saw being able to contribute in this way as an honour and a role I could not turn down.

"With Todd Muller's decision to resign the leadership the most important issue for our party was to get a strong and effective leadership team in place without delay and I am proud at the way in which the caucus managed this. I am in no doubt that in Judith Collins we have the right leader for the challenges ahead and Judith and the team have my full support.

"My time as an MP for the National Party and as the MP for Selwyn has been an honour and a privilege and I remain humbled and grateful at the opportunity I've had to serve this country."

ACT leader David Seymour said he was "astonished" to see Kaye leave politics, adding she left a "big hole".

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"As under-secretary and minister, we worked closely to develop and expand charter schools. Nikki was a very good minister to work with on a cutting edge area of policy."

He also praised Kaye's electorate work, saying she was a model for electorate MPs.

"Nikki was a door-knocker with tremendous tenacity, winning her seat twice against Jacinda Ardern, and always on the doorstep serving her constituents."