Bill English to succeed John Key as New Zealand Prime Minister after surprise resignation

New Zealand's finance minister Bill English is to be sworn in as the country's new prime minister after his colleagues chose him as the new leader of the National Party.

The 54-year-old former farmer emerged victorious from a meeting of the conservative party caucus after two other candidates withdrew from the race last week.

His ascension from deputy prime minister follows the surprise resignation of John Key after eight years as prime minister.

Mr Key was a popular leader and was expected to contest a fourth straight election next year.

But he said he wanted to leave while he was on top and spend more time with his family.

Mr English has been praised for his handling of the country's economy in his role as finance minister.

He has been a politician for 26 years, after he was first elected to the parliament in 1990.

He had a previous unsuccessful stint as party leader, taking his party to a big election defeat in 2002.

"I was 39 years old then, with six children under 13," he said last week. "So if nothing else, I've got the opportunity to focus much more on the job now."

Mr English said he will deliver tax cuts and spread the country's growing wealth to where it is needed.