National leader Christopher Luxon has revealed MP Simon Bridges missed the announcement of his new portfolio because his son is in hospital.
Luxon, who has only been in the job for a day, held a press conference in Tauranga on Thursday to announce that Bridges would be National's spokesperson for finance and infrastructure, and would be third-ranked in the caucus. It comes after Bridges stepped aside in the leadership contest, allowing Luxon to take charge.
But Bridges was forced to cancel his attendance at the last minute after his son had an accident, Luxon revealed.
"I was supposed to be here with my good friend Simon Bridges but I want to tell you what's happened.
"In the last hour one of his sons has had an accident at school and now he's in hospital. Simon texted me 20 minutes ago to say he can't be with us and I told him, 'Mate, just be with your family'," the former Air New Zealand CEO said.
Luxon went on to reveal Bridges' new role, which he says is a "central and critical role" in the new leadership team.
"He is ideally suited to prosecute the wasteful spending decisions, spiralling debt and rising costs of living occurring under the Labour Government," Luxon, the former CEO of Air New Zealand, said.
"It's also critical that we reset New Zealand's approach to infrastructure and take a genuine long-term, intergenerational view. We need an overarching vision for New Zealand's infrastructure and new funding and financing mechanisms that can drive us into the coming decades."
He also revealed he's been "good friends" with Bridges for a long time.
A press secretary for the National Party told Newshub they have no further information about the accident.
"I have no further information at this stage, and leaving Simon privacy to be with his family."
Earlier this week, National announced Luxon would be taking over the leadership, with Nicola Willis appointed his deputy.
It came after Judith Collins was removed as leader following her issuing of a statement last week announcing the demotion of Bridges over an allegation of "serious misconduct".
The allegation related to a complaint made five years ago by National MP Jacqui Dean over comments Bridges made in front of her and other colleagues. Dean complained to then-leader Bill English and Bridges apologised.
Dean later said she was "caught up in a political power-play", and revealed to the Otago Daily Times that she informed Collins weeks ago about the comments Bridges made.
Bridges said last Thursday it was "desperate" of Collins to release the statement about him. Later that day, Collins was voted out as leader by the National Party caucus in a vote of no confidence over the way she handled the situation.