National Party shakeup: Judith Collins gives Māori MP Shane Reti health portfolio, Michael Woodhouse demoted

National leader Judith Collins has demoted MP Michael Woodhouse after he admitted to deleting emails containing confidential COVID-19 patient details.

Collins has promoted Māori MP for Whangarei Dr Shane Reti to the health portfolio, meaning the National Party will now have a non-Pākehā MP on the frontbench. 

Collins said she spoke to Woodhouse on Wednesday and told him that the "right thing" for him to have done when he received the confidential data from ex-National Party president Michelle Boag would be to advise the Government immediately. 

"He is actually very good on this," Collins told reporters.

Collins has given Woodhouse two other portfolios, one of which is Pike River recovery which she said is a "great thing" for him because he was once the Minister of Workplace Relations.

Woodhouse is also has the Associate Finance portfolio and is Deputy Leader of the House. He will also take the regional economic development portfolio.

"Michael did not release the information and I think that that's good that he didn't," Collins said. "He understands that and he is, I think, a top performer in the Parliament and in the National Party."

Woodhouse confessed on Friday to receiving confidential information from Boag, days after National MP Hamish Walker admitted to receiving similar information from her - except Walker leaked the data to the press. 

But the fact that Woodhouse did not come forward sooner caused an embarrassment for former National leader Todd Muller who was asked on Thursday if he had sought assurances from Woodhouse that Boag was not an informant of his.

Michael Woodhouse.
Michael Woodhouse. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Muller did not directly answer the question, and when Woodhouse admitted on Friday that Boag had been an informant of his, it made Muller look like he hadn't been honest with the public.

A few days later, Muller stood down as leader. 

"I think the matter has now been resolved and Michael supports that decision," Collins said. [Woodhouse] fully understands it and he is very pleased with his new portfolios.

"This is a matter that needed to be dealt with. I think the public was rightly appalled people's personal, medical records were being sent around or sent to MPs and they are rightly appalled that any of those fell into the hands of the media."

Praise for Dr Shane Reti

Collins praised Dr Reti as the new health spokesperson Dr Reti. 

"We have in Dr Shane Reti someone who is not only a medical doctor, a specialist, and someone who has even worked at Harvard."

Woodhouse and Dr Reti's rankings are unknown until Collins unveils her reshuffle on Thursday.

Dr Reti was promoted earlier this month in Muller's reshuffle. He was given the number 13 spot after former deputy leader Paula Bennett announced her resignation. 

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 or of any other ethnicity.

It came after the former leadership team of Bridges and Bennett - both Māori - were rolled by Muller and his deputy Nikki Kaye, who are both Pākehā.

Dr Shane Reti.
Dr Shane Reti. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Bennett was dropped from second place on National's list to 13, making her the most senior Māori MP in the party's ranks. Bridges did not appear on the list at the time - he is currently number 17. 

Bennett announced her resignation from politics last month, so if National's list had stayed the way it was, Dr Reti would have been National's most senior Māori MP - way down the list at number 17.

Back in May, Nikki Kaye wrongly suggested frontbench National MP Paul Goldsmith is "of Ngāti Porou descent" but he corrected her to say, "No, I'm not Māori myself".

Goldsmith later clarified: "My great-grandfather had European wives and Māori wives and so I've got lots of relatives across the Ngāti Porou - I don't claim to be Māori myself."