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Key leaves Parliament for last time as PM

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/12/2016 Karen Sweeney

A guard of honour, adoring crowds and cheers greeted John Key as he left Parliament House for the final time as prime minister.

After stopping at Government House to officially tender his resignation to Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, Mr Key and his wife Bronagh will head home to Auckland and on to Hawaii where a catch-up with US President Barack Obama remains a possibility.

When Mr Key returns to parliament next year it will be as a backbencher and someone who looks forward to the anonymity missing from his decade as National party leader and eight years as prime minister.

Despite the public life it was an "incredible experience" for Mr Key and his family, he says.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to show the leadership that I think New Zealand has required through some very difficult times and challenging circumstances to make a contribution to make NZ a stronger and better country," he said.

Mr Key said he loved engaging with the public and admitted he's the kind of person "that likes to be liked".

When his National Party colleagues lined the front steps of parliament as he left the building with his wife Bronagh for the final time as prime minister, it was clear he was not just liked but loved.

"But on the other side of the coin things move on very quickly," he said recalling a moment at an airport several years ago where a young girl asked for a picture and didn't know who former prime minister Jim Bolger, who was standing beside him, was.

"That's living proof that for a lot of young people I've been the prime minister for the entire time that they've been conscious of these matters and pretty soon there'll be Bill English to focus on.

"We should never underestimate how quickly the public move on and that's a healthy thing as well."

He expressed gratitude and thanks to the public who supported him during his 14 years in parliament and to the media in acknowledging "everyone has a job to do".

"Obviously when I return in the new year it's fair to say I'll be somewhat below the radar," he said.

Once Mr Key's resignation is official Bill English will be sworn in as New Zealand's 39th prime minister.

He'll do a fine job and Paula Bennett will be outstanding as his deputy, Mr Key believes.

He thinks their different style, slightly different policies and emphasis on different issues will give people a "sense of a newness" to seek a fourth term in government.

Mr Key's advice to them is to trust their instincts.

"You can't be prepared for every question in every situation and you just simply have to trust your gut," he said.

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