National MPs are meeting today by teleconference before a caucus meeting later today to find a new leader.
That follows the abrupt resignation of leader Todd Muller earlier this morning, 67 days before the general election. His deputy, Nikki Kaye, took over as acting leader.
Muller said he had taken time over the weekend to reflect on his experience over the past several weeks as leader of the opposition.
"It has become clear to me that I am not the best person to be leader of the opposition and leader of the New Zealand National Party at this critical time for New Zealand."
"I intend to take some time out of the spotlight to spend with my family and restore my energy before reconnecting with my community.
"I look forward to continuing to serve as a loyal member of the National Party team and member of Parliament for Bay of Plenty," he said
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement that she had just heard about Muller's resignation: "No matter what side of Parliament you're sitting, politics is a difficult place. I have passed on my best wishes to Mr Muller and his family," she said.
The 'heavy price'
Muller revealed in a statement this morning that he was stepping down as leader "effective immediately". He said he was "not the best person" to be leader.
Muller was leader was for just 53 days.
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters has acknowledged what he calls "the heavy price" of trying to lead the National Party today.
‘One’s sympathy goes out to Todd Muller and his family. Todd is a good man. Unlike most of his colleagues, he does have commercial experience, and he will bounce back.
But Peters couldn't resist a swipe: "Leading a divided and incompetent caucus would have tested even the best leader."
He said the National caucus, "Like too many parties in Parliament," lacked business experience, life experience and political experience. "Heaven only knows who will be the next cab off the ranks selected to lead such a dispirited and incompetent lot."