National's Simon Bridges announces resignation from Parliament

National MP and former leader Simon Bridges has announced he plans to retire from Parliament in the coming weeks, which will spark a by-election in Tauranga.

Bridges won the Tauranga electorate in 2008 by more than 10,000 votes, defeating New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

The shock resignation means National leader Christopher Luxon will need to pick a new finance spokesperson, a coveted role Bridges was given in December after the new leadership team took over.

Bridges, in a statement released on Tuesday at 11:45am, said he was "excited about the future and exploring commercial opportunities", later adding that he might be involved in "a media project or two". 

"More important to me than being a politician or a businessman, I'm a partner to Natalie and dad to Emlyn, Harry, and Jemima. This week my oldest two children turn 10 and 8 years old, and I want to be able to give them the best of me."

The 45-year-old Tauranga MP, who served as National leader from February 2018 to May 2020, said he will formally hand in his resignation to Speaker Trevor Mallard in the coming weeks.

"I love the National Party and this year I will have been a proud member for 30 years. For the first time in a while, National is in a good place under Chris Luxon's leadership with momentum heading into the next election," Bridges said. 

"I am proud to have played a significant role recently in getting National back in the hunt for government in 2023. I have every confidence in National to win the election."

Luxon, in a statement released shortly after, thanked Bridges for his "immense contribution" to the National Party. 

"I want to pay tribute to Simon's relentless efforts to make New Zealand a better place - and also thank Natalie, Emlyn, Harry and Jemima for letting their husband and dad spend so much time away from home to help achieve that goal," Luxon said. 

"Simon, go well. I wish you the very best."

Luxon said he will announce National's new finance spokesperson in the coming days. The process to select a candidate to stand for National in the Tauranga by-election will begin in the coming weeks.

Bridges, speaking to reporters at a last-minute press conference at Parliament, acknowledged it was an emotional time for him and insisted there was no scandal hiding behind his resignation. 

He said it was the right time to step down while National had some "momentum" under Luxon. 

Bridges ran for leadership of the National Party for a second time in November after Judith Collins was ousted by the caucus in a vote of no confidence. 

Collins was given the boot after announcing that Bridges had been stripped of his portfolios over an allegation of "serious misconduct", without first consulting with the caucus. 

It turned out it was National MP Jacqui Dean who, about five years ago, complained to then-Deputy Prime Minister Bill English about comments Bridges made in front of her and other colleagues.

Bridges described Collins' release of the statement about him as "desperate" but later said he regretted the "inappropriate" remarks he made in front of Dean. 

It wasn't Bridges' first scandal. 

Former Natonal MP Jami-Lee Ross accused then-leader Bridges in 2019 of committing electoral fraud by asking him to split up a $100,000 donation from a Chinese businessman into smaller amounts, so they could be hidden from the Electoral Commission.

In the end, it was Ross - who later went independent and created his own unsuccessful Advance NZ party which peddled misinformation and is now deregistered - who faced Serious Fraud Office charges. 

Fast-forward to 2020, and the world was plunged into a pandemic. The Government's decision to extend the first lockdown in April had wide public support, but Bridges criticised the move in a Facebook post that saw National supporters threaten to abandon him

Following months of unrest within the National Party after a devastating Newshub-Reid Research poll that saw National eclipsed by Labour, Bridges was rolled as leader.