Bill English - looking for diamonds

Bill English and Paula Bennett (Lloyd Burr / Newshub.)
Bill English and Paula Bennett (Lloyd Burr / Newshub.)

Simon William English. You know him as Bill, and as of Monday afternoon, also as the 39th Prime Minister of New Zealand.

John Key's face has been beamed into our living rooms for the past eight years, but on Monday afternoon he walked down the steps of Parliament as Prime Minister for the last time, and into political oblivion.

He's been one of New Zealand's most popular leaders, and today his successor hinted the man known as 'Teflon John' could soon be 'Sir John'.

Mr English was sworn in at Government House alongside Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, and he got things going with a bit of poetry.

"Lead and dig up the diamonds around you - that is our task together," he said, quoting the poem 'Lead' by Selina Tusitala Marsh.

"'Lead by digging up diamonds in those around you' is all about seeing the potential in those around you," she told Newshub.

Bill English - looking for diamonds

Paula Bennett and Bill English (Isobel Ewing / Newshub.)

The new Prime Minister says the diamonds are New Zealanders.

"In a country that's going well, people have the opportunity and you see them everywhere."

As well as quoting poetry, Mr English has begun his term with a U-turn on gay marriage. Three years ago he voted against it, but now says if the ballot were held again, he would be in favour.

"I'd probably vote differently on gay marriage today. I don't think gay marriage is a threat to anyone else's marriage."

He's also signalled an end to the ban on lifting the superannuation age, in contrast to Mr Key - who said he'd rather resign.

"I'm not making the same pledge as the previous Prime Minister did - that was a product of its time, where there was a need to establish trust," says Mr English.

The staunch Catholic remains opposed to euthanasia and abortion, however.

"I'm an active Catholic and proud of it… My views around abortion and euthanasia are pretty well-known."