5 Dec 2016

Key moments: John Key's three terms as PM

7:05 pm on 5 December 2016

Prime Minister John Key is quitting and will not stand for re-election in the 2017 general election. Here's a look back at the pivotal moments in his three terms in the top job.

Backbencher to party leader

Mr Key left a successful career as an investment banker overseas, including with US firm Merrill Lynch, to return to New Zealand because he wanted to get into politics.

He stood for Parliament for the National Party in 2002 and won the Auckland electorate of Helensville - a seat he has held since.

Mr Key rose from number 26 in the party's ranks to become finance spokesman in August 2004. He was promoted to the front bench early the following year.

He became the party's leader in November 2006 after Don Brash resigned.

Mr Key beat three-term Prime Minister Helen Clark to win the 2008 election. He would go on to lead the National Party to election wins in 2011 and 2014.

First term: November 2008 - November 2011

In 2008 Mr Key extended funding for the breast cancer treatment Herceptin through the Ministry of Health.

Mr Key met US President Barack Obama for the first time in 2009. The pair had a convivial relationship. In 2014, they played golf together in Hawaii.

The Pike River Mine explosion killed 29 men in November 2010 and Mr Key went to Greymouth and offered support to the victims' families. The men's bodies have still not been recovered.

In early 2011, Mr Key announced plans for the partial sale of state-owned companies, and campaigned on that in the general election later that year. After his election win, the government raised $4.7 billion from the sales of stakes in Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, Genesis Energy and Air New Zealand.

Mr Key's popularity soared after the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, where he visited earthquake-hit areas and promised people would be no worse off. The government red-zoned land in Christchurch and Kaiapoi.

Second term: November 2011 to September 2014

The Canterbury earthquake recovery continued to dominate, at least early on. Mr Key left it predominantly in the hands of Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. He sparked ire with comments in 2015 that he thought most Cantabrians were satisfied with their earthquake repairs.

Mr Key was a fan of the royals. In 2013, he spent the weekend with the Queen and other members of the British royal family at Balmoral Castle. He discussed the possibility of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge visiting New Zealand, which happened the following year. Prince Harry and, separately, Prince Charles and Camilla, followed in 2015. Mr Key said the visits were important, despite the cost.

In 2014, Mr Key defended Cabinet minister Judith Collins after investigative journalist Nicky Hager's book, Dirty Politics, claimed senior National Party members were feeding information on political opponents to right-wing bloggers. Weeks later Mr Key accepted Ms Collins' resignation.

Mr Key glided through Kim Dotcom's "Moment of Truth" about surveillance in New Zealand.

Third term: September 2014 to present

New Zealand went blue in the 2014 election result, with the National Party winning 47 percent of the vote.

Spying allegations resurfaced in March 2015. Mr Hager said leaked documents from American whistle-blower Edward Snowden showed the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) had spied on Pacific nations and passed the information to the United States.

Mr Key insisted the government spy agency acted within the law.

In 2015, Mr Key was criticised over what became known as "Ponytailgate", where he pulled an Auckland waitress' hair over several months at Rosie Cafe near his Parnell home. He apologised to her and said publicly he regretted his actions.

In 2015, Mr Key said taxpayers might have to top up funding for the controversial SkyCity convention centre in Auckland, to stop it becoming an eyesore. Days later he softened his position. Construction started in December 2015.

In 2015 and 2016, Mr Key failed to change the New Zealand flag through a two-stage $26 million referendum. In what could have been his legacy, instead, to his disappointment, Kiwis voted in favour of the status quo.

In 2016, the Panama Papers put New Zealand in the spotlight as an international tax haven. Mr Key defended the country's tax system and his own business dealings.

Housing, particularly soaring Auckland house prices, became a political hot potato during his last term. In mid-2016, the government announced a $1 billion fund to boost housing. Mr Key refused to say there was a housing crisis.

In November, it was earthquakes again. This time, Kaikōura and Wellington bore the brunt. A US naval ship, the first to enter New Zealand waters in more than three decades, helped in the recovery efforts in Kaikōura.

Private life

Born in Auckland, Mr Key was raised in Christchurch. He attended Aorangi School and Burnside High School before studying commerce at the University of Canterbury.

Mr Key and his wife, Bronagh, have two children, Stephie and Max. They live in Parnell and have a holiday home at Omaha Beach. He likes to play golf and watch rugby.