Shane Reti's bizarre theory on the Government baiting National with quarantine rendezvous scandal

The National Party has regrouped for the first time in 2021, vowing to learn to trust and respect each other and not let themselves get distracted. 

They then swiftly got distracted, with a bizarre theory that the Government is trying to bait the Opposition using the quarantine hotel rendezvous scandal. 

National MPs gathered at Wellington's Basin Reserve on Monday for their caucus retreat, which had been relocated from Whangārei as a precaution after Northland's COVID-19 scare. 

National's deputy leader Shane Reti, former leader Todd Muller, and possible future leaders like Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis, all got stuck into backyard cricket, while the party's actual leader, Judith Collins, appraised from a safe distance. 

After National's election shocker, its first caucus of the year is a diminished one. Collins' opening gambit to her caucus: why can't we all just get along?

"This is our opportunity to really rebuild, to work together, to enjoy each other's company, and to learn to trust and respect each other," she said in her opening remarks. 

It comes after leaks, lies and lurching between leaders. 

"We need to do much better than we did at the last election," Willis told Newshub, when asked if the National Party has a problem with trust. 

Dr Reti had a different perspective: "We have no problem with trust that's why we're all here enjoying each other's company."

National MP Chris Bishop said the party has a "popularity" problem. 

The party's New Year resolution is focus, focus, focus - don't fall into any Government traps.

"We've seen a few of those recently coming from the Government side where they're clearly distractions thrown out there so we could take the bait and keep off the things that really matter to New Zealanders," said Collins. 

But she wouldn't explain how the Government has been baiting them. 

"Oh I think you can tell that yourselves," she said, though not really and she wouldn't be drawn on any specifics. 

Collins left it to her deputy to try and clear things up. 

"Well, you have to wonder about some of the testing, some of the things that have come up, I mean you wonder if the dalliance at the hotel with the security worker, was that trying to drive us down a path? Maybe," Dr Reti said. 

So to be clear, Dr Reti is suggesting Winegate - the 20 minute rendezvous at a quarantine facility - was a cunning Government diversion tactic. 

Newshub put it to COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins to see if that was the case.  

He gave a blunt "no". 

Now that it's not being distracted, National is resolving to rebuild, announcing its plan to stand in the Māori seats - working on its diversity problem.

The party now only has two Māori MPs. 

"As far as I'm aware we've got Dr Shane Reti and we've got Simon Bridges... I think that's it," said Collins. 

That's just two of its 33 MPs. 

Suffice to say, National has some work to do. It will all be laid out in the party's sweeping election review, which Newshub has learnt is done. 

"It's confronting is all I would say," said National Party President Peter Goodfellow. 

And that's all there is to know for now - because the party president is keeping it under wraps.