Nikki Kaye reflects on rolling Paula Bennett as National Party deputy leader

New National Party deputy leader Nikki Kaye says she thought she was doing the right thing by taking the role from Paula Bennett in May's leadership coup. 

Bennett announced on Monday she will retire from politics at the September election to pursue a career in the private sector after spending 15 years in Parliament. 

The Upper Harbour MP had already announced in August 2019 her intention not to seek re-election for the electorate seat because she wanted to focus on her new role as National's campaign chair. 

But Bennett lost that job after a National Party leadership takeover in May. Todd Muller took the leadership from Simon Bridges, while Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye replaced Bennett as deputy. 

Kaye told Magic Talk on Monday it was nothing personal. 

"The leadership change occurs, and you do what you think is right, but at the end of the day we all know that we enter the building to do the best that we can and it's time-limited... one day I will leave the building as well."

Kaye said Bennett has made an "extraordinary contribution to New Zealand" and said she anticipates the former deputy leader will do well in the private sector. 

"She's held 14 portfolios as a minister, been deputy leader, Deputy Prime Minister, and I have no doubt she's going to contribute massively in business."

Kaye also acknowledged the amount of work Bennett took on during her time as an MP.

"The thing I will always value about Paula is that she's been a fierce advocate for a range of people, whether that is women or whether that is giving solo mums a better chance in life, and I think she's never been shy about making her views known and I think probably on occasion I've been the same," Kaye said. 

"Today is about Paula and acknowledging her huge contribution."

National leader Todd Muller also praised Bennett's performance - despite pushing her down to number 13 in the National Party's ranks. 

"I want to thank Paula for everything she's done, not only for the National Party but for the country over the past 15 years," Muller said. "Paula has been a stalwart of the National Party for a long time, serving as Deputy Prime Minister and deputy leader."

Muller said Bennett will be remembered for signing the 2016 Paris climate change agreement in New York, and advocating for the welfare system to make sure it focused on supporting people as they got off welfare and into work.

"Paula will always be remembered as a staunch advocate for women and victims during her years in Parliament with a results-based approach to policy, holding herself accountable for how her work made a difference in the lives of New Zealanders."

Kaye told Newshub Nation earlier this month National had a "moral obligation" to win the upcoming election, which is why she and Muller thought it was the right thing to roll the former leadership team. 

The new leadership team got off to a rocky start when questions were raised about the diversity of National's reshuffled frontbench, with Bennett ending up as the highest-ranking Māori at number 13 on the party's list. 

Bennett seemed to be in bright spirits as she announced the end of her political career, and insisted she never had ambitions for the leadership role.  

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