Todd Muller to consider Māori representation during caucus reshuffle

By Katie Scotcher for RNZ

National's leader Todd Muller says he'll be considering the representation of Māori when reshuffling the party's caucus this week.

Just days into his leadership, Muller came under fire for the lack of diversity in his shadow Cabinet line-up.

There are no Māori MPs on the front bench, or of any other ethnicity, but three of National's top four ranked MPs are women.

He has previously defended himself against criticism, saying he selected his front bench on merit and talent.

Ahead of the reshuffle, Muller said he would be considering whether other Māori MPs should be moved up the party list.

"I'll reflect on that as I do with all of the other 55 [National MPs], in terms of my decision in the next coming days," Muller said.

Shane Reti, who is now the party's highest-ranked Māori MP at number 17, was asked by reporters if Māori needed to be higher in the party's list, to which he replied "I think there needs to be skills, which there are across the whole caucus.

"I think the public likes to see themselves in the caucus, in the National Party, and I believe that's what they see."

The reshuffle has been sparked by the imminent departure of Paula Bennett - the party's former deputy leader and highest ranking Māori MP.

Bennett has stepped down from her number 13 party ranking and all portfolio responsibilities.

Reti today signalled an interest in the drug reform portfolio, which has been vacated by Bennett, but said any portfolio decisions would be made by Muller.

Simon Bridges - ousted as leader last month - also said it was up to Muller to decide if he was given any portfolios or a high ranking.

"I mean, I've made clear what portfolio I would be interested in," Bridges said.

Senior National MP Judith Collins this morning shared some parting words for Bennett, who she has often crossed swords with.

"For Paula, it's the right choice for her and she clearly has not been feeling that focused for the last few weeks.

"I think I'm pleased for Paula that she is going out on her own terms," Collins said.

The reshuffled caucus will be revealed in the coming days.