Judith Collins pays tribute to defeated National MPs as Jacinda Ardern celebrates Labour's gains

Judith Collins has paid tribute to defeated National MPs Matt King and Denise Lee while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is celebrating Labour's latest gains. 

National, which had already suffered a huge defeat in the preliminary results, has now dropped even further in the final results. The party now has only 33 seats compared to 35 on Election Day - a huge drop from 56 after the 2017 election. 

Labour now has 65 seats compared to 64 on election night. Labour had already flipped 14 electorates red on Election Day, and the final results show it has snatched up three more: Northland, Whangarei and Maungakiekie. 

Labour's Priyanca Radhakrishnan has won Maungakiekie with a majority of 635 votes over National's Denise Lee. Labour's Willow-Jean Prime has also won Northland with a majority of 163 votes over National's Matt King. 

Both Radhakrishnan and Prime were already coming into Parliament on Labour's list so there's no change there. But Labour's Emily Henderson - who is not currently an MP - has won Whangarei, ousting National's incumbent Shane Reti. 

Dr Reti is high on National's list so he will remain an MP, but Lee and King will not make it back into Parliament. As these two are leaving, Maureen Pugh - who was tipped to lose her place in Parliament - will stay on as an MP from National's list.

"Denise has worked incredibly hard since entering Parliament and it will be extremely sad to see her go. She is passionate about the people of Maungakiekie and has worked tirelessly to make her community a better place," Collins said on Friday. 

Lee is the MP who wrote an email during the election campaign criticising National leader Judith Collins, which was leaked to Newshub. Collins said the leaked email cost the party 5 percent of the vote in internal polls. 

"The same can be said of Matt King in Northland, although I acknowledge that Matt will be seeking a recount of the Northland result. We will be supporting him through that process," Collins added. 

The poor result for National comes as deputy leader Gerry Brownlee confirmed he will not seek re-election in the position when the caucus meets next week. 

"Today, with the release of the special vote count, we have our final numbers. Our smaller team of 33 is now ready to focus on the work ahead," Brownlee, who lost his Ilam seat to Labour's Sarah Pallett, said in a statement on Friday. 

"My focus, moving forward, will be on rebuilding National's base in Christchurch and representing our voters there. Accordingly, I will not be seeking reappointment as the deputy leader when Caucus meets on Tuesday." 

Collins thanked Brownlee for his "dedication to his colleagues" and the party. 

"While it is disappointing to be farewelling more MPs, those who have been confirmed in Parliament for another term are energised about the prospect of rolling up their sleeves and getting on with the important job of holding the Government to account," Collins said.  

"I've had meetings with every National MP. We have gone through their skills and ambitions, and I'm looking forward to announcing National's new portfolio allocations next week."

Collins said National owes it to the people of New Zealand to provide a "strong and effective" Opposition. 

Ardern, who was sworn in as Prime Minister by the Governor-General on Friday along with her all-Labour Cabinet and new ministers, grinned as she talked about Labour's new gains during her first post-Cabinet press conference since winning the election. 

"It is fantastic to see Dr Emily Henderson take out Whangarei and join our 65-strong caucus. I also want to congratulate Willow-Jean Prime who has won Northland and Priyanca Radhakrishnan who has taken out Maungakiekie," Ardern said. 

"It is an extraordinarily big day for Priyanca in particular who this morning joined the executive and this afternoon has won her seat. I'm enormously proud as well of our candidates in the north."

Radhakrishnan is the first Indian-origin woman to become a minister in New Zealand.

"As I said on election night and many times since, we will be the Government for all New Zealanders, not least because we must make sure we represent all those who elected us, be they in city seats, rural seats, general seats or Māori seats," Ardern said. 

"Today I reminded Cabinet that the honour of serving comes with enormous responsibility. We take nothing for granted in leading the team of 5 million over the next three years. There are significant challenges for us to overcome together but I am confident we have the team to do it and it is great to be officially able to now crack on with it."

The Māori Party has picked up an additional seat after the special votes giving it two seats overall in Parliament, but Ardern ruled out giving them a deal like she did with the Greens. 

"No, look any agreements that we would look to undertake - cooperation or otherwise - have already been formed. We are now focused with getting on with the business of Government."

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson have been given ministerial roles outside of Cabinet, as part of a 'cooperation agreement' Labour offered them despite its majority.