Watch: Robbie Williams picks wildcard to succeed Bill English as National Party leader

Global pop superstar Robbie Williams has turned political pundit, giving his opinion on who should be the next leader of the National Party after Bill English resigned today.

The Rock DJ singer was talking at a press conference in Auckland ahead of his show at the city's Spark Arena tomorrow night, when a reporter pulled out pictures of potential replacements for English and asked Williams to pick his favourite.

First up was National MP Mark Mitchell, who the star took an immediate shine to.

"He seems friendly and trustworthy I would trust him," Williams said nodding his approval.

Next up was Simon Bridges: "There's a bit of closet stuff going on there I think, am I right?" Williams analysed, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Amy Adams also met with the British singer's approval for her no nonsense look.

"She looks like she would get the job done and would take no prisoners," he said.

Paula Bennett didn't fare so well with Williams commenting the reporter hadn't brought the best picture of her, Nikki Kaye was also given the thumbs down for "looking like a few of my exes".

In the end Williams chose Mark Mitchell as the man to replace English, only time will tell if he is correct in his choice.

Williams is playing two shows while in New Zealand for his Heavy Entertainment Show tour including Auckland's Spark Arena on Wednesday February 14 and Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday February 17.

But one of the candidates got the thumbs down for looking too much like some of the singer’s exes. Source: 1 NEWS

Government gives $750k initial aid package to cyclone-ravaged Tonga to 'meet its immediate needs'

An RNZAF Hercules is flying to Tonga this afternoon carrying emergency relief supplies to Tonga.

Possibly the strongest storm ever recorded in the Pacific Island kingdom, Cyclone Gita passed Tonga overnight causing widespread destruction, flooding and power outages.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has told Parliament the plane is being deployed after a verbal request from the Tongan government to help the 5700 people seeking shelter in evacuation centres. He says it's expected these numbers will increase substantially tonight.

The Hercules is carrying family hygiene kits, shelter kits, jerry cans, and tarpaulins.

The plane is also carrying a New Zealand Government team to support the New Zealand High Commission to assess emergency needs and respond to requests from the Government of Tonga.

Mr Peters says the full extent of damage caused by Cyclone Gita is still being assessed but there is an immediate need for assistance on the ground.

The Prime Minister said she just spoke to Winston Peters and Cyclone Gita relief funds for Tonga are "all signed off". Source: 1 NEWS

Initial assessments indicate there has been extensive damage to homes in Nuku’alofa and some damage to commercial buildings, he says.

Mr Peters told the House he has also approved an initial package of $750,000 to support relief efforts in Tonga.

"I'll help the government of Tonga to meet immediate needs such as emergency shelter, water and sanitation," he said.

At this stage Fuaʻamotu International Airport runway in Tongatapu is open to emergency supply aircraft only. 

Mr Peters says a visual inspection of the international airport has shown the runway to be intact with minimal damage.

New Zealand is coordinating the international relief response alongside other countries including Australia.

With respect to Samoa, Mr Peters said the Government has already approived $50,000 emergency funds for the New Zealand High Commisison in Apia to use to support Samoan efforts.

"And as we get a clearer picture of demand we'll be ready to answer and respond," he said.

"As the situation on the ground becomes clearer we'll support governments with longer term recovery and reconstruction."

Mr Peters said that following previous events New Zealand has for example helped get the power network up and running, repaired schools and other government infrastructure and ensured clean water is available.

The Foreign Minister says a Hercules is flying to Tonga and relief money has been approved for the two island nations. Source: 1 NEWS


Watch: Ardern acknowleges English's 'extraordinary contribution' after his shock retirement announcement

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has paid tribute to Bill English after his resignation announcement this morning as leader of the National Party.

Mr English is the current Father of the House, the longest continuous current serving MP, after Peter Dunne resigned last year. 

During Parliament's Question Time today Ms Ardern said Mr English made an "extraordinary contribution over many years".

Earlier Ms Ardern tweeted: "Just heard the news that Bill English has decided to stand down. Bill has made a huge contribution through his time in office and to politics generally. I admire those who serve NZ in this place, and Bill did for a long time, and he did it well. My best wishes Bill English."

The Jacinda-effect claims another victim with Mr English deciding he’s not the man to lead National forward. Source: 1 NEWS

She also released a statement saying: "Bill has worked tirelessly as Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister, and Opposition Leader among his many public roles. Very few serve for so long at such a high level, but garner the respect of many.

"He has always stood for what he believes in. He is a man of clear convictions who has always had a genuine concern for the well-being of New Zealanders, and gave a huge portion of his working life to serving on their behalf."

The National Party stalwart paid a touching tribute to his biggest supporters as he resigned from Parliament this morning. Source: 1 NEWS

Following his resignation speech, deputy National leader Paula Bennett said Mr English had "incredible mana" and was highly respected among the Caucus members.

"We're going to miss him, and miss him a lot."

"I don't think New Zealand will ever appreciate the depth of his thinking." 

She would not answer questions if she was planning to run for leader. 

Mr English will be asking the first question in Question Time today at 2pm: Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's policies?

Let's hope the National Party leader is as good at baking cakes as he is at making spaghetti pizza. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr English has had a large handful of memorable moments during his time in Parliament, well known for his love of spaghetti pizza, walk-runs and Southland. 

He stepped up to be Prime Minster after John Key resigned in 2016, after he was voted to continue to lead the country by the National Party. 

Mr English had led the National Party previously during the 2002 election loss to Helen Clark.

The PM’s message came during Parliament’s Question Time. Source: 1 NEWS