Shocking decision: New Zealand PM John Key resigns

Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 07:32 GMT, Dec 5, 2016 |

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has resigned, in a move that shocked many observers.

Key had been in power since 2008, and leader of the ruling National Party since 2006.

“Ten years at the top is a long time,” he told reporters in Wellington on Monday, adding that he owed it to his family to step aside.

Key said he had no immediate future plans, but told reporters he would stay in parliament long enough for his centre-right National Party to avoid a by-election for his seat.

“This has been 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. It gives the cabinet and caucus plenty of time to settle in with a new leader before heading into the next election,” Key said at his weekly press conference in Wellington, citing family reasons for his departure.

The National Party caucus will hold a meeting on December 12 to decide the new party leader and prime minister.

Key said he would vote for his deputy and finance minister Bill English to take over, if he decided to stand.

English, a political veteran who previously worked on the family farm and as a policy analyst at the Treasury Department, would likely continue with many of Key’s core policies, analysts said. National elections are not expected until late 2017.