Dr Shane Reti approached every National MP on quest to become deputy leader - The AM Show

The AM Show 11/11/2020

Dr Shane Reti approached every single National MP for support on his quest to become the party's deputy leader.

The MP was elected unopposed as the centre-right party's deputy leader on Tuesday at National's first caucus meeting since the official election results were revealed on Friday. The role was vacated by Gerry Brownlee, who last week announced he wouldn't seek reappointment.

It's been a meteoric rise for Dr Reti, who was ranked 45th on National's list in 2017 and fifth in 2020.

He describes himself as "just a Māori lad from Northland looking to make his way" and told The AM Show he was asked by members of the National caucus to stand for the job.

"I pondered that and discussed that with some of my mentors. Yes, I decided that if I could be useful I would be happy to. So, I then lobbied my fellow members."

First elected to Parliament in 2014, Dr Reti said most of his colleagues have now known him for several years - so they know what they are getting. 

"They clearly like what they thought I could bring to the role. So, then I approached every single member by myself asking for their support."

Dr Reti's appointment comes despite the MP losing the Whangārei electorate he held for six years to Labour's Emily Henderson.

"We tried as hard as could to retain the seat, of course, [we] gave every effort that we could. We were caught up in the red surge as well. Following that, the caucus has asked me to be their deputy."

He said his primary ambition is to be the best MP he can for the people of Whangārei and to serve the National Party caucus. But does he seek a higher office?

"I have a leadership role here now and this is the role that I will apply myself 100 percent to. Judith [Collins] is the leader. She has my support. I am the engine behind her," he told The AM Show.

"I am ambitious enough for the role I have here now. I am privileged to be in a leadership role as deputy."

In his new role, Dr Reti will be looking to support Collins - who was reconfirmed as leader on Tuesday - and "get the very best single person in caucus so that we are focused, so that we are sharp, so that we are valid challenges in 2023".

He says National can become relevant again after receiving just 25.6 percent of the vote at the election and having its caucus slashed from 54 seats to just 33.

"We go back out and listen. We go back and ask. We ask our members, we ask our non-members, we ask the New Zealand community: How can we best serve you? From that, we will be informed how we become relevant again and we will change and we will shape ourselves in a way that is effective," he said.

"We could have been more in tune. Maybe that is wisdom in hindsight. We thought we were doing well at the time, but clearly, the result shows that we weren't. We will do our best to fix that."

On Tuesday, Collins said she was "delighted" by Dr Reti's election.

"He is a hard-working, intelligent MP with all the skills needed to be an effective leader. His detailed examination and prosecution of the Government’s handling of COVID-19 helped improve the response for New Zealanders," she said.

"Dr Reti's knowledge and history working in the health sector will be an asset as Parliament deals with the impact of COVID-19. His experience will be invaluable to me as deputy leader and I’m looking forward to working closer with him."

Collins will be announcing the party's reshuffled caucus on Wednesday, but has confirmed Dr Reti will retain the health spokesperson role.

Before politics, Dr Reti practised family medicine and dermatology in Whangārei for 16 years. He has completed three terms on the Northland District Health Board, spent time as an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and held a role with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.