Māori woman second in charge

By Lynette Amoroa, Renee Kahukura-Iosefa

State Services Minister Paula Bennett of Tainui is set to become the country's new deputy leader after Simon Bridges bowed out.

Mr Bridges made the announcement at Britomart in Auckland this morning.

He said his numbers were good but not good enough and acknowledged Bennett as deputy leader. "Truth is now you now have a strong Māori woman Paula Bennett right at the top of cabinet at number two supporting Bill. So, I can see this as a strong government for Māori”.

Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett have been battling it out this week for the deputy leadership of the Party.

Current Deputy Prime Minister Bill English is expected to take on the top job, with his opponents Jonathan Coleman and Judith Collins dropping out of the race during the week.

Reports say Bennett had 22 MPs publicly supporting her while the Transport Minister had 9 public votes. Thirty votes were needed to win. Bridges said he had more than one-third of caucus support but "I can count and one-third isn't one-half".

Mr Bridges acknowledged the English, Bennett combination saying it puts New Zealand and Māori in a strong position. "We know Bill English is someone who has been involved in Treaty matters and discussions with iwi, he has personally had a huge involvement in that'.

A caucus meeting to vote on the deputy leadership was planned for Monday but it seems it will now be an acknowledgement for the pair into their new roles.