Christopher Luxon has finally assembled the team he thinks will take him into office next year. It includes former staffers of National-led Governments past, and tries to bring together the party's diverse factions whose internecine warfare these past four years has hobbled National.
Parliamentary staff in a party leader's office have their contracts terminated whenever there's a change of leader.
This gives a new leader the opportunity to remake their office as they see fit, which Luxon appears to have done, focusing his selections on people with an economics or business background.
Two areas currently lacking are staff in senior roles who specialise in social policy, and gender and ethnic diversity.
The team likely comes with a big price tag, but the party insists staffing costs are being managed from within existing budgets.
Former National Prime Minister John Key is a close ally and confidant of Luxon. He has contributed political advice to Luxon in the past, including helping Luxon make up his mind over whether to run for the leadership.
Luxon describes his relationship with Key as a friendship. The pair got to know each other while Key was Prime Minister and Luxon was chief executive of Air New Zealand. After leaving office, Key joined the board of Air New Zealand, while Luxon was still chief executive.
They speak regularly, including about politics, but Luxon insists it's on a friendship basis, rather than Key acting as a "sounding board" for policy or strategy. Luxon also talks with other grandees of the former Government, including Bill English, Paula Bennett and Steven Joyce.
Heading up the kitchen Cabinet is Luxon's deputy, Nicola Willis, who has a long association with Parliament. Her mother, Shona Valentine, was a press gallery journalist (and colleague of Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper).
Her parliamentary career has been spent in service of National Party grandees, Bill English, who she worked for in opposition, and John Key, who she worked for in Government. Willis has a good political brain and an eye for detail, which have been used to great effect in her prosecution of the Government's failure on housing. She's a strong champion of women in a caucus that has often overlooked the importance of gender balance. Willis had to cut her own political path early in her first term in Parliament after English took a socially conservative position on euthanasia and abortion law reform, issues Willis publicly championed. This rift stirred some controversy in Wellington National Party circles.
The rift appears to have mended (or being on the mend), with Willis paying tribute to English in her speech on taking the finance portfolio, which English famously held. She is also the custodian of the social investment portfolio, one of English's policy legacies.
Willis is a leading member of National's liberal caucus. She's close to fellow Wellington liberal Chris Bishop, a partnership which caused some of the pair's detractors in caucus to coin the portmanteau "Bishola". Willis and Bishop faced the ire of the caucus after the failed Todd Muller coup, which she had promoted, although much of that sentiment has since subsided.
Willis' liberal ally and fellow kitchen Cabinet member, Chris Bishop has been an MP since 2014. Bishop's first public-sector job was writing answers to written parliamentary questions at the Ministry of Education. Those questions were sent to the office of then-Education Minister (and holder of the seat Bishop contests, Hutt South) Trevor Mallard, where the questions were signed off by Mallard's then-staffer, one Chris Hipkins - now Bishop's rival Covid-19 response portfolio holder (Mallard said the sign-offs were done by non-political staffers). Mallard, as Minister of Education, also gave Bishop an award for being top of bursary history in 2001 (Bishop was out of the country, so the award was accepted by his father).
Bishop (like Willis) is the child of a former member of the press gallery, John Bishop. Bishop was also a former staffer, working in the ministerial offices of Gerry Brownlee and Joyce, whose reputation for competence and fixing things Bishop (possibly unconsciously) emulates.
A details guy, Bishop cut his teeth in the police and transport portfolios. He led relentless attacks on the Government's elevation of Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha, the Auckland light rail project, and the beleaguered Let's Get Wellington Moving transport plan. However, like Willis he had to grapple with a degree of caucus animosity in the wake of the collapse of Todd Muller's leadership.
As shadow leader of the house, Bishop is National's voice when decisions are made over how Parliament is run.
He worked his way back into favour by arduously rebuilding National's lost credibility on the handling of the pandemic.
Rounding out the MP members of the kitchen Cabinet is Paul Goldsmith. His elevation to this position was only recent, and follows Simon Bridges' decision to retire this week.
After Bridges' departure, Goldsmith is one of the few former ministers in caucus, and few high-ranking social conservatives. Luxon wants that voice in his shadow Cabinet to balance out the voices of liberals Willis and Bishop.
Goldsmith is obviously remembered for the fiscal hole debacle of the 2020 campaign, but looking through that crisis, his strengths include a decent political nose, including on issues like Covid-19 where he took a less hard-edged tone than Bridges in the early days of the pandemic. Luxon also wants to elevate Goldsmith's portfolios, particularly justice.
Luxon's first big hire was chief of staff Cameron Burrows, whose CV apparently landed in Luxon's hands around an hour after the change of leadership occurred. Burrows' hiring was announced a fortnight after Luxon took office.
Though he will never be a Cabinet minister, Burrows is described as a member of Luxon's kitchen Cabinet, the only non-MP to be considered so. He has participated in high-level National strategy sessions, including this summer's retreat on Waiheke Island with the rest of the kitchen Cabinet.
A former senior staffer under Bill English and John Key, Burrows stuck around after National lost the 2017 election and worked in a policy role when Simon Bridges became party leader in 2018. Burrows came highly recommended by former Key and English chief of staff Wayne Eagleson.
An economist by training, Burrows has previously worked at Treasury, and in the British civil service. He was most recently the chief executive of the Electricity Retailers' Association, where he got to know Energy Minister Megan Woods well. He is said to have a talent for both policy and communication.
Longtime staffer Gareth Hollins has been promoted to head of research and policy advice. Hollins previously worked for Nikki Kaye while she was deputy leader, and has stayed with the party since then.
Before joining National's team in Parliament, Hollins worked in trade policy, then overseas in Britain and Turkey where he worked in consulting.
National hired former New Zealand Initiative senior economist Matt Burgess to be the party's economic adviser. Burgess had formerly worked as Bill English's senior economic adviser while English was Finance Minister.
Before that, Burgess was the chief executive of iPredict, the online predictions market. Later that was effectively shut down by Associate Minister of Justice Bridges when he declined to exempt it from anti-money laundering legislation (Burgess was already safely ensconced in the Beehive by that point).
At the New Zealand Initiative his work focused extensively on climate change and the emissions trading scheme.
After a long career in business and political journalism, Hamish Rutherford changed careers to join Luxon's office as chief press secretary.
Rutherford had a three-year stint in the press gallery for Stuff, covering the 2014 election, before leaving to become Wellington business bureau chief (he remained an associate member of the press gallery, regularly covering politics).
In 2019, he switched media organisations, joining the New Zealand Herald as Wellington business editor. Scoops have included uncovering evidence of the pricing behaviour of petrol companies - a story Stuff put on the front page of the Dominion Post's first compact edition.
While at the Herald, he led an investigation over the financing of the America's Cup defence. Rutherford has a reputation for hard-edged, details-focused reporting with an obvious economic and business bent.
He's close to Wellington's National MPs Bishop and Willis.
He has yet to start in the new role, but when he does, he'll be responsible for the party's media strategy.
One of Parliament's best-known press secretaries, Higginson worked for a range of ministers in the previous Government including Te Ururoa Flavell, Hekia Parata and Amy Adams. She followed National into opposition, working for English and Bridges, before leaving Parliament.
In the interim, Higginson worked in Waka Kotahi's NZ Transport Agency's press team, focusing on transport in the Wellington region (including Transmission Gully). She was briefly seconded into Transport Minister Michael Wood's office.
Digital director Simon Flanagan was one of Luxon's picks. He most recently worked at the Reserve Bank, but first caught Luxon's eye for his work at the police. He was head of social media for police between 2016 and 2018, before he left for Kiwibank.
Flanagan produced several popular viral videos at police, including the well-known 2016 Running Man Challenge and other recruitment videos.
"Take the job seriously, but never yourself" is one of Luxon's business maxims.
The leader will announce a new digital media agency soon. It will take on a lot of the party's ad work in the future, and National hopes it will become more of a 24/7 operation, regularly pumping out content.