|37th Leader of the Opposition|
27 February 2018
|12th Leader of the National Party|
27 February 2018
|10th Leader of the House|
2 May 2017 - 26 October 2017
|Minister of Economic Development|
20 December 2016 - 26 October 2017
|26th Minister of Transport|
6 October 2014 - 26 October 2017
|Minister for Communications|
20 December 2016 - 26 October 2017
|Clare Curran (Communications and Digital Media)|
|Member of the New Zealand Parliament|
8 December 2008
Simon Joseph Bridges
12 October 1976
Auckland, New Zealand
|Relations||Simon O'Connor (brother-in-law)|
|Education||University of Auckland (BA, LLB)|
London School of Economics
St Catherine's College, Oxford (BCL)
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. He has been the Member of Parliament for Tauranga since the 2008 election. A self-described "compassionate conservative", 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.
He is the first person with M?ori ancestry to serve as leader of the National Party.
Simon Bridges was born in October 1976 in Auckland, the youngest of six children. His father of M?ori and P?keh? (European) descent was a Baptist minister and his mother of P?keh? (European) descent from Waihi was a primary school teacher. His father Heath's mother, Naku Joseph, was a member of Ng?ti Kinohaku, a hap? (subtribe) of the Ng?ti Maniapoto tribe, and associated with Oparure Marae near Te Kuiti, through which Bridges has family connections to former Labour Cabinet Minister Koro W?tere.
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. 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.
Bridges began his legal career as a litigation lawyer in a major Auckland law firm, Kensington Swan. 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. As a Crown prosecutor in Tauranga, Bridges mainly worked on jury trials. Bridges ended his legal career in 2008, when he was nominated by the National Party to stand for election to the New Zealand Parliament.
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. 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.
|New Zealand Parliament|
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. He was placed at No. 51 on National's party list. Several opinion polls during the campaign suggested Bridges was likely to win the seat by a large margin.
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.
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.
Bridges was re-elected in the 2011 election. 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. 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.
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. Opponents perceived that Bridges had wrongly approved the exploration in a sensitive area, however this was denied by Bridges and Prime Minister John Key.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Simon Bridges was re-elected in the 2017 election. 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.
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. The day after English's resignation, Bridges announced his candidacy in a press conference, to run for the leadership of the National Party. On 27 February 2018, he was elected as National Party leader. He is the first person with M?ori ancestry to serve as leader of the National Party.
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. 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. On 15 August, Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard launched an independent inquiry into who had leaked information about Bridges' expenses.
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. 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. Bridges claimed that the New Zealand Police were reportedly aware of the leaker's identity.
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.
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. 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.
Bridges met his future wife Natalie, a British-born public relations consultant, while she was studying at the University of Oxford. The couple have two sons, born in 2012 and 2014, and a daughter, born in 2017. The family live in Matua, Tauranga. As of 2008 he attended Holy Trinity Tauranga, an Anglican church.
Bridges has a personal superannuation scheme, like 241 other New Zealanders (mainly MPs).
|New Zealand Parliament|
| Member of Parliament
| Minister of Transport
| Leader of the House
| Leader of the Opposition
|Party political offices|
| Leader of the National Party