In a heated interview, National's new deputy leader Gerry Brownlee says attempts were made to retain Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams, but they have made personal decisions to move on.
The party lost the two senior MPs today, with both women announcing they will be retiring at September's election.
Brownlee said this week's events within National had been extraordinary and unforeseen.
He told Checkpoint that the departures of Kaye and Adams would cause "some sorrow", but others in the party would step up as already seen by leader Judith Collins' announcement of her new lineup this afternoon.
Kaye and Adams were both involved in last week's crisis involving the leak of COVID-19 patient data by fellow National MP Hamish Walker and it was not easy to go through such a week, he said. They had both decided that their time in politics was up.
"In the end, members of parliament make their own decisions about what they think they can contribute ... it is a gruelling job at times, and if you've lost the passion for it or you no longer feel as fired up then I think you do have to look at your choices," Brownlee said.
Kaye was a passionate person who would appreciate some quiet time before embarking on another "stellar" career, he said.
He said Adams had reconsidered her original decision to retire because she wanted to work on policy for National's COVID response and he had taken over this job but it will now have a much more narrow economic focus.
He said 200,000 people were out of work, casual and part-time work had disappeared and many businesses were working out how they will cope once the wage subsidy ends shortly.
"It is multi-faceted and will be across multiple portfolios."
Work under way on choosing new candidate
Discussing the Auckland Central electorate, which Kaye will vacate at the election, he said it was a very important seat because it was a wealthy electorate, had a significant amount of small business and had benefited from National's spending on infrastructure.
It would be subject to the Greens' wealth tax, the cancellation of rail projects, it had two universities with young people who would be looking for jobs and it covered Waiheke and Great Barrier islands which would be suffering from the lack of international tourism.
Nominations for a new National candidate would close tomorrow and the successful candidate should be named in the first week of August.
Asked about criticism from Cantabrians about his appointment due to simmering resentment over the way he handled the earthquake recovery portfolio under the last National Government, he said: "That is simply not a reasonable position for anyone to take."
Some 167,000 properties in Christchurch required repairs, insurance companies were involved in many disputes with property owners, EQC had never walked away from the city and there would be several reasons why some repairs were still ongoing, Brownlee said.
An enormous amount of progress had been made in the city, he said.
"I don't resile from any decisions that were made at that time."
On Friday leader Judith Collins would announce some new policy that had been developed under the leadership of Todd Muller. He refused to give any clues to the policy areas that would be covered.
Māori communities would suffer the worst effects of the recession and it was possible National might change its mind and stand candidates in the Māori seats, he said. National could offer Māori voters something different from what they were being presented with at other elections.
Collins is exploring the possibility of National contesting the Māori seats for the first time since 2002.