Joyce announces resignation

Senior National MP Steven Joyce is to retire from Parliament.

"I have had a wonderful time in this place over the last nearly ten years including nine years as a Minister, and have been privileged to be able to make a real contribution to the development of our country," Joyce said in Wellington this afternoon.

Simon Bridges' election as National leader last week had led to his decision to retire.

The 54-year-old had put himself forward for the role of leader, following the resignation of Bill English, but will now return to the commercial sector.

"With the recent change of National Party leadership I have had the opportunity to consider again what I would like to do over the next several years," Joyce said.

"Simon has made a very positive proposal to me to stay and contribute as a senior member of the team on the front bench with a choice of portfolio.

"However I feel that it is time for him to get a new team around him to take National forward and win in 2020 and then govern again for the benefit of all New Zealanders."

Often referred to as National's 'Mr Fix-it',  Joyce entered Parliament in 2008 and went straight into a role as Cabinet Minister under then Prime Minister John Key. 

Joyce told reporters he had been lucky to have a busy nine years and hoped he had made a contribution to the development of the county.

He had taken time to think over the last few days and decided it was "a fork in the road."

Joyce said he met Bridges in Tauranga this morning to tell him of his decision. He denied it was a response to Bridges saying he would not get the finance portfolio, saying it was a personal decision.

He said Bridges had not offered finance but had offered him a choice of other roles on the front bench. However, he said he was not sure if he would have stayed even if he did retain the finance portfolio.

Joyce said believed Bridges would "acquit himself well" as National leader. He said he had no regrets about standing for the leadership - and said he would offer whatever help Bridges asked for.

He denied his decision to quit was a direct response to losing the leadership bid.

"I think if I was in a petulant mood I'd have gone to the backbenches and grown a beard. The thing that made me stand for the leadership was I'm really passionate about helping New Zealanders work hard and get ahead."

From left: Bill English, Steven Joyce and Simon Bridges at the opening of Auckland's Waterview...
From left: Bill English, Steven Joyce and Simon Bridges at the opening of Auckland's Waterview Connection tunnel last year. Photo: Getty Images

Joyce said it was not easy to turn his back on that but at some point it had to be done. He said his career had featured some interesting moments - including the sex toy thrown at him at Waitangi commemorations - but said it had been "a blast."

Asked if he regretted claiming Labour had an $11 billion hole in its numbers during last year's election campaign he said "absolutely not."

Asked for his parting words to Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Joyce said he would urge him not to forget the businesses working hard around the country.

Labour MP and Finance Minister Grant Robertson tweeted his former rival: "All the best for the future Steven. It has been (mostly) fun sparring with you."

Joyce said his crowning achievements included the national broadband rollout, saying it would help New Zealand businesses compete internationally.

His only regret was having Labour repeal National's tax cuts, saying it would mean workers on the average wage paying the top tax rate.

He did not expect he was irreplaceable, saying soon people would say "Steven who?".

Joyce would not list his mistakes: "There's actually lots of mistakes in politics and most of them never go seen." And asked if he thought he might get a knighthood he said "Oh I don't think so."

Joyce's resignation opens the way for Nicola Willis to enter Parliament.

Willis was briefly in Parliament late last year but lost her position after the special votes were counted. She stood in Wellington Central and is highly regarded within National. Willis previously worked as a senior adviser in John Key's office.

Minister for a decade

Steven Joyce has led the party's general election campaigns since 2005.

"I have led the National Party's general election campaign five times as campaign chair and in four of those for John Key and Bill English, we achieved a party vote in excess of 44 percent, the only time it has happened under MMP.

"And it was an honour to be Bill English's Associate Minister of Finance for eight years before presenting my own Budget in 2017, which continued building the platform for future economic growth and focused on boosting incomes for low- and middle-income earners.

"My plan now is to return to commercial life and seek new challenges and also to focus on being a good Dad to Tommy and Amelia."

Joyce was also dubbed the "Minister of Everything" and "Super Minister" after he created the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. He was Minister of Economic Development before becoming Finance Minister in 2016 after Key left.

He also gained fame for more ridiculous elements. He featured on US-based John Oliver's talk show for his assessment of the Eminemesque soundtrack National used in its 2014 campaign as "pretty legal". He also featured on the show for having a novelty dildo thrown in his face at Waitangi commemorations.

Huge contribution, says Bridges 

The man who beat Joyce to the National leadership, Simon Bridges, thanked the departing MP for his service to the party.

"Steven has made a huge contribution during his 15-year political career, including in the last decade in Parliament. In that time he has proven an exceptional minister, colleague, advisor and political strategist," Bridges said.

"As a minister, Steven has played a major role in helping create a stronger New Zealand, particularly in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis."

Bridges said Joyce had played a large part in rebuilding the National Party.

"He was someone John Key and Bill English turned to for advice and to get things done. That meant he was given tough tasks but he consistently rose to those challenges. And I will also continue to use him as a sounding board as the National Party looks to 2020.

"He played a major role in rebuilding the National Party, leading the past five elections and helping turn National into New Zealand's largest and most popular political party.

"Steven is a huge loss to Parliament and to the National Party and I want to thank him for his immense contribution to New Zealand, and his wife Suzanne and their children for sharing them with us. We wish him all the best."

Former National leader Bill English said Joyce has been at the heart of the rebuild of National after 2002.

"He has made a massive contribution to his party and his country. I'm confident others will come forward to fill the huge gap he leaves in the National Party."

- By Clare Trevett 


Is SJ leaving at 2020, or soon? If soon, is there a 'bye' election?



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