Simon Bridges

Last updated

Simon Bridges

37th Leader of the Opposition
Assumed office
27 February 2018
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Deputy Paula Bennett
Preceded by Bill English
12th Leader of the National Party
Assumed office
27 February 2018
DeputyPaula Bennett
Preceded byBill English
10th Leader of the House
In office
2 May 2017 26 October 2017
Prime Minister Bill English
Deputy Michael Woodhouse
Preceded by Gerry Brownlee
Succeeded by Chris Hipkins
Minister of Economic Development
In office
20 December 2016 26 October 2017
Prime Minister Bill English
Preceded by Steven Joyce
Succeeded by David Parker
26th Minister of Transport
In office
6 October 2014 26 October 2017
Prime Minister John Key
Bill English
Preceded by Gerry Brownlee
Succeeded by Phil Twyford
Minister for Communications
In office
20 December 2016 26 October 2017
Prime Minister Bill English
Preceded by Amy Adams
Succeeded by Clare Curran (Communications and Digital Media)
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Tauranga
Assumed office
8 December 2008
Preceded by Bob Clarkson
Majority11,742 (31.69%)
Personal details
Simon Joseph Bridges

(1976-10-12) 12 October 1976 (age 42)
Auckland, New Zealand
Political party National
Spouse(s)Natalie Bridges
Relations Simon O'Connor (brother-in-law)
Education University of Auckland (BA, LLB)
London School of Economics
St Catherine's College, Oxford (BCL)
Website Official website

Simon Joseph Bridges (born 12 October 1976) is a New Zealand politician and lawyer who has served as the Leader of the New Zealand National Party and Leader of the Opposition since 27 February 2018. [1] [2] He has been the Member of Parliament for Tauranga since the 2008 election. A self-described "compassionate conservative", [3] Bridges has served in several Cabinet portfolios, including those of Minister of Transport (2014–2017) and Minister of Economic Development (2016–2017). He took the role of Leader of the House from May to October 2017.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Leader of the New Zealand National Party

The Leader of the National Party is the highest ranked politician within the National Party in New Zealand. Under the constitution of the party, he or she is required to be a member of the House of Representatives.

New Zealand National Party Major New Zealand political party

The New Zealand National Party, shortened to National or the Nats, is a centre-right political party in New Zealand. It is one of two major parties that dominate contemporary New Zealand politics, alongside its traditional rival, the New Zealand Labour Party.


He is the first person with Māori ancestry to serve as leader of the National Party.

Māori people Indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand

The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Māori originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages some time between 1320 and 1350. Over several centuries in isolation, these Polynesian settlers developed a unique culture, with their own language, a rich mythology, and distinctive crafts and performing arts. Early Māori formed tribal groups based on eastern Polynesian social customs and organisation.

Early life

Simon Bridges was born in October 1976 in Auckland, the youngest of six children. His father of Māori and Pākehā (European) descent was a Baptist minister and his mother of Pākehā (European) descent from Waihi was a primary school teacher. [4] His father Heath's mother, Naku Joseph, was a member of Ngāti Kinohaku, a hapū (subtribe) of the Ngāti Maniapoto tribe, and associated with Oparure Marae near Te Kuiti, through which Bridges has family connections to former Labour Cabinet Minister Koro Wētere. [5]

Pākehā is a Māori-language term for New Zealanders of European descent. The term has also recently come to refer inclusively either to fair-skinned persons, or to any non-Māori New Zealander. Papa'a has a similar meaning in Cook Islands Māori.

Waihi Town in Waikato, New Zealand

Waihi is a town in Hauraki District in the North Island of New Zealand, especially notable for its history as a gold mine town. It had a population of 4,527 at the 2013 census.

In Māoridom and New Zealand, a hapū functions as "the basic political unit within Māori society".

Bridges grew up in Te Atatu, West Auckland, and attended Rutherford College. There, he was taught by future Labour Education Minister Chris Carter, and became head boy of the college. [4] [6] He went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts in political science and history, and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at the University of Auckland.

Te Atatu Suburb in Auckland Council, New Zealand

Te Atatu is the name of two adjacent suburbs in western Auckland, New Zealand: Te Atatu Peninsula and Te Atatu South. They are located next to each other some 10 kilometres to the west of the Auckland city centre, and are separated by the Northwestern Motorway.

Rutherford College is a co-educational state secondary school on the Te Atatu Peninsula, Auckland, New Zealand. It is named after New Zealand-born nuclear physicist and chemist Lord Ernest Rutherford.

Chris Carter (politician) New Zealand politician

Christopher Joseph Carter is a former New Zealand Labour Party and independent Member of the New Zealand Parliament. He was a senior Cabinet Minister in the Fifth Labour Government of New Zealand, serving lastly as Minister of Education, Minister Responsible for the Education Review Office and Minister of Ethnic Affairs. He was the Member of Parliament for the Te Atatu electorate, where he was first elected in 1993. He did not win re-election in 1996, but won a new and expanded Te Atatu seat in 1999. In 2010 he was suspended from the Labour Party caucus following a dispute with party leader Phil Goff, shortly afterwards he became an independent MP. He was expelled by the Labour Party for breaching the Party's constitution in bringing the Party in disrepute, on 11 October 2010. In September 2011 Carter resigned from Parliament following his appointment to a United Nations position in Afghanistan. In 2018 he rejoined the New Zealand Labour Party and is standing for election as a Labour Party representative in the 2019 New Zealand local elections.

Bridges began his legal career as a litigation lawyer in a major Auckland law firm, Kensington Swan. [4] He moved to Tauranga in 2001 to take up a position as a Crown prosecutor in the District and High Courts. During this time, he took leave to travel to the United Kingdom to study at the London School of Economics, and later to complete a postgraduate law degree at St Catherine's College, Oxford; he also worked as an intern in the British House of Commons. [4] As a Crown prosecutor in Tauranga, Bridges mainly worked on jury trials. [7] Bridges ended his legal career in 2008, when he was nominated by the National Party to stand for election to the New Zealand Parliament. [8]

Tauranga City in North Island, New Zealand

Tauranga is the most populous city in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand. It was settled by Māori late in the 13th century and by Europeans in the early 19th century and was constituted as a city in 1963. Tauranga City is the centre of the fifth largest urban area in New Zealand, with an urban population of 141,600.

London School of Economics Public research university in Westminster, central London, England

The London School of Economics is a public research university located in London, England, and a member institution of the federal University of London. Founded in 1895 by Fabian Society members Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, Graham Wallas, and George Bernard Shaw for the betterment of society, LSE joined the University of London in 1900 and established its first degree courses under the auspices of the University in 1901. The LSE started awarding its own degrees in 2008, prior to which it awarded degrees of the University of London.

St Catherines College, Oxford

St Catherine's College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England and is the youngest college to teach both undergraduate and graduate students. Tracing its roots back to 1868, it has 502 undergraduate and 442 graduate students as of December 2017, making it the largest undergraduate college by membership in the University of Oxford.

Early political career

Bridges became a member of the Young Nationals in 1992 at the age of 16 and was elected Deputy New Zealand Chair in 1997. He was active in National's West Auckland organisation as a member of MP Brian Neeson's electorate team. Bridges supported Neeson against a challenge by John Key for the National Party candidacy to contest the new seat of Helensville at the 2002 general election. [4] In the following years, Bridges held several senior positions within the party, including sitting on the party's rules committee and serving as chairperson of the Tauranga National Party branch. [8]

New Zealand Young Nationals

The New Zealand Young Nationals, more commonly called the Young Nats, is the youth wing of the New Zealand National Party, a centre-right political party in New Zealand, and a member of the International Young Democrat Union.

Brian Kevin Neeson is a New Zealand politician. He was an MP from 1990 to 2002, representing the National Party, and a member of the Waitemata District Health Board from 2004 to 2010.

John Key 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand

Sir John Phillip Key is a New Zealand former politician who served as the 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 2008 to 2016 and as Leader of the New Zealand National Party from 2006 to 2016. After resigning from both posts in December 2016 and leaving politics, Key was appointed to board of director and chairmanship roles in New Zealand corporations.

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
2008 2011 49th Tauranga 51 National
2011 2014 50th Tauranga30 National
2014 2017 51st Tauranga18 National
2017 present 52nd Tauranga6 National

Election to Parliament: 2008–2011

In 2008 the incumbent National MP for Tauranga Bob Clarkson announced his intention not to stand for re-election. Bridges then announced his candidacy for the party's selection to stand in the electorate, and he resigned from his roles within the party. In June 2008 Bridges was selected as the party's candidate for the Tauranga electorate. [9] He was placed at No. 51 on National's party list. [10] Several opinion polls during the campaign suggested Bridges was likely to win the seat by a large margin. [11] [12]

Bridges won the seat with a majority of 11,742 votes, against a field of 11 candidates, including New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. As New Zealand First did not meet the 5% party vote threshold nationally, it was reliant on at least one candidate winning an electorate seat in order to be represented in Parliament, and Winston Peters' Tauranga candidacy had been its best chance that year. [13]

Bridges sponsored a Private Member's Bill to increase penalties for animal cruelty, which was drawn from the ballot in early 2010. After passing its first reading, the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill was adopted by the Minister of Agriculture David Carter as a Government Bill and was passed into law. [14]

Minister: 2012–2017

Bridges speaking to Bryce Edwards at a 2011 election event Simon Bridges votechat.jpg
Bridges speaking to Bryce Edwards at a 2011 election event

Bridges was re-elected in the 2011 election. [15] In April 2012, Prime Minister John Key appointed Bridges as a Minister outside Cabinet, as Minister for Consumer Affairs, Associate Minister of Transport, and Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues. [16] In January 2013 Bridges moved into the Cabinet and became Minister of Labour and Minister of Energy and Resources. He continued to be Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues. He was no longer Minister of Consumer Affairs and Associate Minister of Transport. [17]

Bridges made regular appearances on TVNZ's Breakfast programme as part of the "Young Guns" feature, in which he appeared alongside Labour MP Jacinda Ardern. [18]

In April 2013 Bridges voted against the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in New Zealand. [19]

In October 2013, during a TV interview on Campbell Live, Bridges and presenter John Campbell became engaged in a heated discussion about the benefits and risks of offshore oil drilling. [20]

In April 2014, environmental activist group Greenpeace launched a campaign calling for Bridges to be removed as Energy and Resources Minister over an allegation he approved potential oil and gas exploration in Victoria Forest Park, West Coast, but later said he was unaware of having given the approval. [21] [22] Opponents perceived that Bridges had wrongly approved the exploration in a sensitive area, however this was denied by Bridges and Prime Minister John Key. [23]

Bridges, as Transport Minister, opens a cycle route in Palmerston North Ribbon cutting (19336444012).jpg
Bridges, as Transport Minister, opens a cycle route in Palmerston North

A by-election was held in the Northland electorate on 28 March 2015. On 9 March, the National party candidate Mark Osborne announced with Bridges (then Minister of Transport) that National pledged to upgrade 10 one lane bridges in the region at a cost of up to $69 million. [24] Opponents criticised the government for using its advantage inappropriately in the Northland by-election campaign, especially since it was later revealed that Bridges had asked officials for information on the 10 one lane bridges days before the announcement. However, Prime Minister John Key defended the request on the grounds that Bridges had sought factual information rather than policy advice, which is permitted under the Cabinet Manual rules. [25]

Following the resignation of Prime Minister John Key on 5 December 2016, Bridges announced his candidacy for the Deputy Leadership of the National Party and consequent Deputy Prime Ministership. He withdrew from the election process when it became clear Paula Bennett had the numbers to win. [26]

New Prime Minister Bill English made changes to the Cabinet effective 20 December 2016, and Bridges became Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Communications, and Associate Minister of Finance. He retained his role as Minister of Transport and was no longer Minister of Energy and Resources, and Associate Minister of Justice, and Climate Change Issues. [17]

Opposition: 2017–present

Simon Bridges was re-elected in the 2017 election. [15] Following the defeat of the National government, Bridges was no longer a minister, but was appointed Shadow Leader of the House, and National spokesperson for the portfolios for both Economic and Regional Development, and Immigration. [27]

In February 2018, Bill English resigned as Leader of the New Zealand National Party, and therefore Leader of the Opposition, paving way for a leadership election. [28] The day after English's resignation, Bridges announced his candidacy in a press conference, to run for the leadership of the National Party. [29] On 27 February 2018, he was elected as National Party leader. [1] He is the first person with Māori ancestry to serve as leader of the National Party. [30]

MP expenses saga

On 13 August 2018, Newshub reported that Bridges has spent $113,000 in taxpayer money on limousines and hotels between April to June 2018. (His expenses were higher than normal because he was travelling around New Zealand on a 'getting to know Simon' road show.) Information on Bridges' spending emerged as a result of a leak of MPs' expenses. [31] [32] In response, the National Party demanded an independent inquiry into the source of the leak. Bridges publicly stated that he was "supremely confident" that his MPs were not behind the leak. [33] On 15 August, Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard launched an independent inquiry into who had leaked information about Bridges' expenses. [34]

On 24 August 2018, RNZ reported that a person claiming to be the National Party leaker had sent separate anonymous text messages to Bridges and Speaker of the House Mallard calling for the inquiry into the leaking of Bridges' expenses to be called off. The author of the text alleged that they had suffered from mental health problems and claimed that the publicity would endanger their health and life. [35] In response, Mallard subsequently called off the inquiry, prompting criticism from both Bridges and Shadow leader of the House Gerry Brownlee, who demanded that the investigation into the identity of the leaker continue. [36] [37] Bridges claimed that the New Zealand Police were reportedly aware of the leaker's identity. [38]

On 15 October 2018, Bridges announced at a press conference that National MP Jami-Lee Ross had been identified as the one who had leaked his expenses. Bridges cited a PwC report which strongly suggested that Ross had been the leaker, based on text messages sent to a Radio New Zealand reporter, the Speaker of the House, and a police officer in the Botany electorate during the leak. Bridges also rejected claims made by Ross in a series of tweets alleging that Bridges had been trying to pin the blame on him for questioning his leadership decisions. Bridges also indicated that National would seek disciplinary action against Ross. [39] [40]

On 16 October 2018, Ross alleged that Bridges had violated election law several times, including accepting an illegal NZ$100,000 donation in May 2018, which Ross claimed that Bridges had told him to cover up. The donation came from a businessman, Yikun Zhang, connected to the Communist Party of China. [41] [42] In addition, Ross alleged that Bridges and Deputy Leader Paula Bennett had tried to smear him with allegations that he had sexually harassed several women. Bridges publicly denied Ross' allegations as baseless and said it was a matter for the police. That same day, the National Party caucus voted to expel Ross for disloyalty. Ross intends to stay in parliament as an independent MP. [43] [44]

Personal life

Bridges met his future wife Natalie, a British-born public relations consultant, while she was studying at the University of Oxford. [45] [46] The couple have two sons, born in 2012 and 2014, [47] [48] and a daughter, born in 2017. [49] The family live in Matua, Tauranga. [50] As of 2008 he attended Holy Trinity Tauranga, an Anglican church. [4]

Bridges has a personal superannuation scheme, like 241 other New Zealanders (mainly MPs). [51]

Bridges' sister, Rachel Trimble, married National MP Simon O'Connor in December 2016. [52]

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New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Bob Clarkson
Member of Parliament
for Tauranga

Political offices
Preceded by
Gerry Brownlee
Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
Phil Twyford
Leader of the House
Succeeded by
Chris Hipkins
Preceded by
Bill English
Leader of the Opposition
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill English
Leader of the National Party