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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.
Senior MPs Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams both confirmed their resignations this morning and will not contest the election on September 19.
It prompted a hasty rethink by Collins, who was only picked as leader late on Tuesday night following Muller's shock resignation earlier in the day.
Former leader Simon Bridges is now the fourth highest ranked in her shadow cabinet. A former Crown prosecutor, he also gets the justice portfolio.
Collins described the man rolled by Muller as leader recently 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.
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.
Collins insisted that Kaye and Adams leaving was not a sign they couldn't work under her leadership and 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 had 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.
"I'm not so pleased that they're leaving - but I understand it."
On Kaye she said: "She is the bravest person I know but she has found the deputy leadership role has taken a big toll on her."
Collins said it was important they made the right decisions for themselves and they had her "eternal respect and gratitude".
Adams told The New Zealand Herald she decided to quit when Collins didn't let her keep the Covid-19 recovery portfolio she had 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."
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."
Adams wouldn't say if she voted for Collins, but was "very happy with the combination that walked out of the caucus room".
She 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".
Collins had "every chance" of winning the election and Adams believed she would make "an exceptional prime minister".
Kaye was expected to retain her Auckland Central electorate, where she has previously beaten Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern twice.
Adams had already announced she would be leaving politics, but had changed her mind when Muller became leader.
Earlier today, Collins thanked Kaye and 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."
John Key: Collins needs 'complete support'
Former Prime Minister Sir John Key praised Kaye and Adams' contribution - and said new leader Collins now needs the party's "complete support".
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."
But he said it was "a critical time for National Party supporters to give their complete support" to Collins and Brownlee.
Big winners in reshuffle
Judith Collins said had spoken to every National MP last night and had given herself one portfolio - national security.
New health spokesman Shane Reti - who replaced Dunedin MP Michael Woodhouse in the role - has been given a sizeable promotion as well: he now ranks number five.
However Woodhouse remains on the front bench.
"I made my decision on Michael Woodhouse, that is my decision," Collins said.
Former leader Todd Muller 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.
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, with Collins saying he had the most tenacity she had seen in politics "bar my own".