National leadership hopefuls jockey for position hours after Bill English announces his exit from politics

National MPs eyeing a tilt at the party's leadership are already jockeying for position behind the scenes and number crunching following leader Bill English's announcement this morning that he's quitting politics.

Mr English's resignation will take effect in two weeks on Tuesday February 27 and he will leave Parliament for the last time on Thursday March 1.

The National Party leader and former PM stepped down today after entering Parliament in 1990. Source: 1 NEWS

National's MPs will choose the next leader and the candidates have just two weeks to lobby them before the vote.

None have publicly thrown their hats in the ring yet.

1 NEWS Political Editor Corin Dann says today has been "Bill's day" and says National sources have stressed they wanted "a bit of clear air" so people could assess his legacy and give him the respect they felt he deserved.

"Tomorrow though is another day. And that's when we're really going too see things start to move, I think, and candidates coming forward," Dann said tonight. 

"There's a lot of jockeying going on behind the scenes, a lot of number crunching, all that sort of thing for these candidates to work it out."

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams are the most likely frontrunners, but others could take a shot, Dann said. 

The long-serving politician and former prime minister announced he’s quitting politics for good. Source: 1 NEWS

"And what is so interesting about this race is that there isn't one clear, obvious candidate sitting there like there was when John Key went and he anointed Bill English effectively. It's wide open and we've got a genuine race," he said.

Dann said he thinks Mr English's departure is "a huge loss for National". 

"He was a politician of great respect, great mana, who had an enormous amount of policy grunt and did an enormous amount of work for that party. He was also very trusted and very liked by the public. He is going to be very difficult to replace," he said. 

"But the issue is did he still want to be there? And if he didn't - as it appears he wanted to go - then he needed to go so the party could rebuild and they could start again and the new leader can have time to try and rebuild to 2020."

Mr English has been an MP for 27 years after being elected in 1990, and for eight years was finance minister and deputy prime minister under John Key. Mr English was prime minister for 10 months after taking over from Mr Key in December 2016 but lost it to Jacinda Ardern last October. 

Mr English struggled to hold back emotions today as he fronted at Parliament with his family by his side to announce he's quitting politics. 

"This is more about myself and my family. They've spent all of their lives with the demands of politics and I want the opportunity to be able to start again on a different life without politics," he said.

And he's leaving with a  message to his MPs to make sure the contest to replace him doesn't turn nasty. 

That's a recipe for staying in opposition,  regardless of the quality of government," he said.

1 NEWS’ Political editor gives his analysis after Bill English stepped down today. Source: 1 NEWS

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Motocross rider injured after riding off 30-metre bank in North Island

Emergency services, including a helicopter, attended the scene after a motocross rider rode off a 30-metre bank in the North Island today.

The man was flown to Middlemore Hospital in a moderate condition after receiving suspected back injuries. Source: Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

The man, who is in his 20s, was winched out of the remote location, in the village of Miranda, at 11.37am, Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust communications manager Lincoln Davies told 1 NEWS.

The motocross rider suffered suspected back injuries and was flown to Middlemore Hospital in a moderate condition.


Emergency services, including a rescue helicopter, were called to the scene after a motocross rider rode off a 30-metre bank in Miranda. Source: Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

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Submissions reopen for controversial Central Otago development plan

Submissions have reopened for a controversial Central Otago development plan for up to 900 homes.

The Central Otago District Council recently consulted on the proposal, which required land rezoning under the district plan to go ahead.

The development has been mooted for land near Cromwell, which can't be used for higher density residential subdivisions.

The council received 417 submissions on the proposal, with more than 400 of them opposing rezoning the land.

In her submission, Irene Margaret Wallace asked for the plan change to be declined.

"Cromwell is known as the fruit bowl of Central Otago," Ms Wallace said.

"Rezoning will remove a valuable food production zone."

The land is subject to rural residential rules and is located to the south of State Highway 6 near Cromwell.

The proposal to apply a new River Terrace Resource Area would open up the land to be developed.

Bruce Davidson called for the council to steer residential away from commercial areas.

"It would be medium-term commercial suicide if this plan change was allowed," Mr Davidson said.

"The potential for future and existing commercial operations including orchards, vineyards ... along with Highlands and the Speedway would be seriously put at risk as they come under pressure from residential landowners."

The Ministry of Education also made a submission on the proposal, as a school has been mooted as part of the development.

In its submission, the Ministry said it did not support or oppose the plans, but it didn't believe the additional students predicted would justify a new state school.

"Students from the proposed development would need to travel to the existing schools," it said.

It did not rule out the expansion of Cromwell College to meet future demand.

River Terrace Developments supported the proposal, with a few tweaks to noise insulation standards used.

Further submissions will be accepted until the November 29.

rnz.co.nz - Tess Brunton

Cromwell was known as the fruit bowl of Central Otago, submitter Irene Margaret Wallace pointed out.
Cromwell was known as the fruit bowl of Central Otago, submitter Irene Margaret Wallace pointed out. Source: rnz.co.nz


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One person dead after a collision between car and bus near Queenstown

One person has died after a crash between a car and a bus near Queenstown this morning.

Acting sergeant Terry Wood says the car was driving on the wrong side of the road.

“From the scene it appears that the vehicle crossed the centre line and collided head on with the bus.”

The fatal accident happened on State Highway 6 near Devils Staircase, south of Queenstown.

Police confirmed the person who died was in the car but there were no other injuries despite 15 people, including the driver, being on the bus.

A police spokesperson has told 1 NEWS the person who died in the crash was the sole occupant of the car.

A statement from the bus company involved in the incident, Southern Discoveries, said they would work closely with Police.

"The driver of our bus as well as all 14 passengers on board are uninjured.

"We are currently taking all of the passengers back to their accommodation in Queenstown and providing them, as well as our staff, with any support they may require."

The bus was carrying a group of tourists. Police don’t have any details as to where they were headed at this stage.

Emergency services were alerted of the crash at 7:45am.

The Serious Crash Unit will be investigating and the road will be closed for some time.

No identification of the driver has been made.

One person died after an accident near Devils Staircase. Source: 1 NEWS


Wellington pharmacy robbed at knife-point twice in less than a week

A Wellington pharmacy has been robbed at knife-point twice in six days.

The Queen Street pharmacy in Upper Hutt was robbed just before 11am yesterday by a man in his 40s with a craft knife who took prescription medicine.

It was also robbed on Sunday evening last week just after 7pm by a man wielding a large knife, who also took prescription medicine.

The store's co-owner of four years Brooke McKay said they had never been robbed before and to be hit twice in one week was unusual.

"I think you just have to trust that they'll catch the guy. I mean it's pretty unusual for this to happen so it's obviously pretty desperate times."

The employees who were working at the time were shaken up but doing well, she said.

"We've sent them home for the day, but they're both doing really well, as well as you can expect after a situation like that.

"After the first robbery we had a chat to all the staff and made sure everyone knew what to do and what services were available. We hoped it wouldn't happen again but obviously it has so they're pretty shaken up."

Ms McKay said she was not sure if it was the same man who committed both robberies.

"Police are working on all of that but it definitely seems a bit suspect for it never to happen and then two in the space of a week."

The store had reopened and it was business as usual, she said.

"We're an after-hours service so you shut for a couple of hours in the middle of the day and the backlog gets up. We could close but that means the public has to pay for someone else's stupid decision."

Police said the public could expect a heavier than usual police presence over the next few days.

In relation to today's robbery they are looking for a man described as in his 40s, about 178cm tall, wearing grey tracksuit pants and a grey hoodie with a grey checked scarf around his face.

He is believed to have left the area either riding or pushing a bike.

rnz.co.nz - Emma Hatton

Image released by police of the offender from the Queen Street Pharmacy aggravated robbery.
Image released by police of the offender from the Queen Street Pharmacy aggravated robbery. Source: NZ Police