Former business executive Christopher Luxon has been voted the new leader of New Zealand’s opposition National Party after main rival Simon Bridges moved to support him.
It followed Judith Collins’ tumultuous exit as leader last week, after she summarily demoted Bridges last week.
- READ MORE: NZ’s covid-19 update for November 30: 134 new community cases today
- Other NZ covid lockdown reports
“It is a tremendous privilege to lead our great party, and I thank my colleagues for the confidence they have placed in me,” Luxon said in a statement shortly after the vote.
Luxon, a former chief executive of Air New Zealand between 2012-2019, also said that he was pleased Nicola Willis had been chosen as his deputy.
“She will do an incredible job and we will be a formidable team.”
They face a National Party reset at a critical when New Zealand has been facing its toughest covid-19 lockdown after initially weathering the first waves of the virus last year.
Luxon, who describes himself as an Evangelical Christian and has expressed his opposition to policies such as abortion and cannabis legalisation, said he had entered politics because he was a problem solver who “gets things done”.
“I have built a career out of reversing the fortunes of under-performing companies and I’ll bring that real-world experience to this role.”
Luxon said he and Willis would be working hard to earn back New Zealanders’ trust and confidence “and deliver for them”.
He also promised that the party would be unified under their leadership.
“We are the new National Party that New Zealand needs.”
Luxon’s main rival, former leader Simon Bridges, tweeted his support for Luxon with just over an hour remaining before this afternoon’s caucus meeting where the party voted on the new leader.
“This morning I met with Chris Luxon and had a great discussion. I am withdrawing from the leadership contest and will be backing Chris. He will make a brilliant National leader and Prime Minister,” he said.
This morning I met with Chris Luxon and had a great discussion. I am withdrawing from the leadership contest and will be backing Chris. He will make a brilliant National leader and Prime Minister.
— Simon Bridges (@simonjbridges) November 30, 2021
Few words for media
“Luxon had few words for the media as he arrived at Parliament this afternoon.
“Great day for the National Party, it’s really wonderful today … I’m looking forward to going to see my caucus colleagues,” he said.
Other National MPs were saying little as they arrived at Parliament throughout the morning and early afternoon.
Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop, who had been raised as a possibility in initial speculation about the leadership, also backed Luxon.
“He’s gonna make a great leader of the National Party, he’s gonna make a great prime minister, I can’t wait to serve in his team. It’s an exciting day for New Zealand, big reset moment for the National Party.”
He said Bridges would remain in the party.
“Simon’s gonna be a critical part of the National team going forward, he’s got undoubted political skills, I’m really looking forward to serving with him, he’s gonna make a great whatever role he gets from Christopher Luxon and National just resets now.
Go forward together
“We go forward together and we’re gonna change the government in two years’ time.”
Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey said it would mean a new direction for the party.
“I’m looking for a fresh start and a new vision for the party, and a new vision for the country. I’m looking forward to that, it’s exciting.”
List MP Melissa Lee said she thought Luxon was “very experienced in life”.
“He is very new but the thing is that he’s not daft. He’s a very intelligent man, I think he has led companies before and although it is actually a very different feel, that experience does speak to his life experience and I think he will make a great leader.”
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.