Newly-appointed National Party leader Judith Collins is confident the departure of senior National MPs Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye has nothing to do with her leadership.
Collins was elected leader on Tuesday night after Todd Muller's sudden resignation, and despite being offered top spots in the new Shadow Cabinet, Adams and Kaye have decided to leave.
Adams announced her retirement from politics a year ago but un-resigned after Muller became leader back in May with Kaye as his deputy leader. Muller is staying on but Adams and Kaye quit just before Collins announced her reshuffle.
"It's probably not a huge surprise to many of you because Nikki has been very tied up in the deputy leadership role that she had with Todd Muller," Collins told reporters on Thursday.
"She discussed it with me yesterday that even though she absolutely supports the National Party and my leadership of it, she has decided that at this stage of her life it's time to move to another career.
"She is a wonderful person and I have to say I feel extremely affectionate towards Nikki because she has put her heart and her soul into the role."
Collins said Adams no longer felt like it was necessary to stay on after the election.
"Amy, as you know, announced her retirement last year and she came back to fulfil a role for Todd Muller as the leader. Clearly, that role is not there, although she was offered a very high ranking and excellent portfolios," Collins said.
"But Amy has considered it, and thought at her stage, she's already announced she's going, her electorate has been re-selected and she will take this opportunity to move on with her first plan, which is to leave politics.
"I'm really pleased that both Amy and Nikki are making decisions that they feel happy with. I'm not so pleased that they're leaving. But I understand it. This is an incredibly difficult role as an MP and it is right that they make the right choices for themselves."
Collins said she has "eternal gratitude" for the way Adams and Kaye "behaved" over the last week. She rejected suggestions Adams and Kaye quit because they couldn't work under her.
"No, in fact they were both adamant that they could," Collins said. "Amy already had announced her retirement. She came back in to help Todd Muller in his role. Todd now has a new role and I'm perfectly fine doing what I'm doing.
"Nikki, as you know, has previously suffered cancer and she has recovered from that. She is the bravest person I know. But she has found that the deputy leadership role has taken a big toll on her and I think you all know how Nikki must be feeling with what has happened."
Just days into his leadership in May, Muller came under fire for the lack of diversity in his Shadow Cabinet line-up because there were no Māori MPs on the front bench after Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett got rolled.
Kaye made headlines after she wrongly suggested National MP Paul Goldsmith is "of Ngāti Porou descent" and he corrected her to say, "No, I'm not Māori myself".
Then there was the privacy breach. National MP Hamish Walker admitted last Tuesday to leaking confidential COVID-19 patient data to the press after it was given to him by ex-National Party president Michelle Boag.
National's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse then confessed on Friday that he was given similar information by Boag but didn't pass that information on to the Government.
Woodhouse was demoted on Collins' first day as leader because she said he should have immediately passed on the information to the Health Minister.
Kaye revealed to Newshub on Thursday that Woodhouse had a press statement ready to go last Tuesday about receiving the information, and conceded, "It probably could have gone out earlier."
But she couldn't say if Muller had put the brakes on Woodhouse going public.
Collins said she will wait for the findings of the Michael Heron QC investigation into the leaked information before she makes any judgements.
"I don't know anything about that and I've moved on. I made a decision on Michael Woodhouse. That is my decision and I'm not going to go and air it here. We've had our discussion. I've made my decision. That's it."
Collins has given the health portfolio to Māori MP Dr Shane Reti, who is now ranked at number five. He's just behind former leader Simon Bridges at number four, so there are now two Māori MPs in National's top five.