Winston Peters' ticket back to Parliament? Simon Bridges' resignation to spark Tauranga by-election

Tauranga, get your ballot boxes out because it's by-election time. 

Former National leader Simon Bridges announced on Tuesday he is retiring from politics, ending his 14-year political career. 

The opening creates a gap that might see the return of former Tauranga MP - and the most familiar face in New Zealand politics - Winston Peters.

Bridges is officially signing off from politics. 

"It's pretty simple. For me personally, it's time," Bridges told reporters on Tuesday.

The MP for Tauranga fought back tears as he called time on 14 years in Parliament, quitting to spend more time with his young family. 

"I am a husband to Natalie and a dad to Emlyn, Harry and Jemima," Bridges said, appearing to hold back tears. 

The bombshell caught his Tauranga constituents completely unaware. 

"I'm shocked," one local woman told Newshub. 

"I guess his time is done," another said. 

Bridges promises there's nothing he's running from - no scandal behind the shock resignation. 

"Absolutely not," he said. "If there was, I'd probably stay and tough it out. There just isn't."

National leader Christopher Luxon also gave assurances there was no scandal behind the resignation. 

"Absolutely," Luxon said. 

Bridges says he's been mulling this for a while now after a 14-year career. The highs were ever so high - a junior minister in former Prime Minister John Key's Government and the first Māori leader of National.

"The first Māori leader of a major party... Sorry, Winston," Bridges quipped, referring to NZ First leader Winston Peters.

It was a role Bridges loved. 

"It is a big deal. You know, I'm not going to suggest to you that I'm not going to look back and miss some of it. I will. I love politics. I still love it. Even the bad times have been good."

He sure had his fair share of bad times, beginning when former National MP Jami-Lee Ross torpedoed the party with allegations Bridges was a "corrupt politician"

Bridges pushed on but his leadership was plagued by leaks. He was eventually rolled by Todd Muller.

Bridges clung on as an MP, even gearing up for round two of a leadership coup at the end of last year as Judith Collins catapulted the party back into chaos. 

But Bridges' departure now means a by-election for Tauranga - and the fight begins. 

"I'll look to try and move as quickly as we can just to give certainty to everyone," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, discussing Labour's plan to run in Tauranga. 

Bridges took the seat 14 years ago against Peters and Tauranga might just want him back. 

"Only one best politician around... And that's old Winston," one local told Newshub. "He'll be back!"

"Old Winny, get him in there!" another said. 

Peters was most recently spotted courting the conspiracy crowd at the anti-mandate protest, clearly searching for any way back into Parliament. 

But it was a big fat no from Peters when asked for an interview with Newshub.