New Zealand prime minister John Key is resigning

New Zealand prime minister John Key. Photo: Getty Images.

New Zealand prime minister John Key is stepping down after eight years in the nation’s top job.

Key announced his resignation this morning saying: “A good leader knows when it’s time to go, and it’s time to go.”

“It’s nicer when you leave on your own terms, but it doesn’t make this morning conversations any easier,” he added.

“This is the hardest decision I’ve ever made and I don’t know what I’ll do next. But for me this feels the right time to go.”

Having just marked eight years in the office, the National Party leader of 10 years said he “gave it everything I had” and had “nothing left in the tank”.

“I have given everything I could to this job that I cherish, and this country that I love,” Key said, acknowledging the sacrifice of his wife and two adult children.

“For my wife Bronagh, there have been many nights and weekends spent alone, many occasions that were important to her that I simply could not attend,” he said.

“My family has also had remarkable opportunities and experiences as we have met people and visited places from one end of our country to the other.

“We have celebrated alongside fellow Kiwis in their happiest times, and wept with them in their saddest.”

Key will step down next Monday as both PM and Nationals leader and is likely to be succeeded by his deputy, Bill English.

English spent two years as National leader, taking over from Jenny Shipley in 2001. But as Opposition leader he led the part to its worst ever defeat in 2002 against Helen Clark, handing the role over to Don Brash in 2003.

Key said his colleague had “grown a great deal” since then.

“If Bill English puts his name forward then I will vote for him,” he said.

The National Party caucus will meet on December 12 to decide the new party leader and Prime Minister, 11 months before the next election in November 2017.

Key said he could not have served out a full fourth term.

“I have never seen myself as a career politician. I have certainly never wanted my success in politics to be measured by how long I spent in Parliament,” he said.

Alongside giving a new leader time to settle in, as well as wanting more family time, the 55-year-old said it “feels the right time to go” adding that had he been asked about serving out a fourth term, he would not have been able “look the public in the eye and say yes”.

Key will remain in the NZ parliament “long enough to avoid the cost and inconvenience a by-election” before leaving politics next year.

Key is the 38th prime minister of New Zealand, and has been in office since 2008.

He has led the New Zealand National Party since 2006. He entered parliament in 2002, representing the Auckland electorate of Helensville.

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