Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has paid tribute to her long-term political rival, Nikki Kaye, after the National MP announced her shock retirement this morning.

"Ultimately, someone with a lot of experience has retired today in Nikki, and I do want to wish her all the best as someone I know personally," Ardern told media this morning.

Kaye was Todd Muller's deputy but did not seek to be re-selected in the leadership vote this week that was won by Judith Collins.

Ardern and Kaye have been political rivals for years.


They ran against each other in Auckland Central in 2011 and 2014 – Kaye winning both times.

Although Ardern would not be drawn on details of National leader Judith Collins' reshuffle, she did have a few parting works for Kaye – "someone I know very well".

"She has been a very experienced member who I have enjoyed worked with and I wish her all the best."

Although not going into much detail, she did say: National "are obviously going through big changes".

Asked about doing a deal with the Greens in Auckland Central, Ardern said: "It's not something that we have engaged in before and it's not something I see any reason to do now".

Collins unveils new line-up

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

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.

National leader Judith Collins announcing her caucus reshuffle at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National leader Judith Collins announcing her caucus reshuffle at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

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 Kaye was "very tied up" with the previous leadership role.

"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 National's reshuffle

Former leader Simon Bridges is the fourth highest ranked in Collins' shadow cabinet. A former Crown prosecutor, he also gets the justice portfolio.

Collins described the man rolled by Todd 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.

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

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 the Covid-19 portfolio prompted her decision today to retire.


Collins said Brownlee knows operational issues and how to get things done and 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".

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

She has given herself one portfolio: national security.

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 were only two women in the top 12 because a lot of those 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, now ranking number five.

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

Woodhouse remains on the front bench.

"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 would take 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 leader said the new line-up showed 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.

Veteran MP Nick Smith is back in the shadow cabinet. Collins said 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.