Former airline CEO elected leader of New Zealand opposition party

Mr Christopher Luxon is politically inexperienced, having entered Parliament only a year ago.
PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER LUXON/TWITTER

WELLINGTON (BLOOMEBERG) - New Zealand's main opposition National Party appointed its fifth leader in four years, choosing newcomer Christopher Luxon to restore its support and take on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Mr Luxon, a former Air New Zealand chief executive, was elected leader by National Party Members of Parliament at a caucus meeting Tuesday (Nov 30) in Wellington, the party said in a statement.

Ms Nicola Willis was elected deputy leader.

"It is a tremendous privilege to lead our great party, and I thank my colleagues for the confidence they have placed in me," Mr Luxon said. "The unified National Party that Nicola and I lead will work every day to represent all New Zealanders, earn back their trust and confidence, and deliver for them."

Mr Luxon's appointment comes after Ms Judith Collins was ousted from the job last week and his rival for the role, Mr Simon Bridges, withdrew from the contest earlier Tuesday.

Ongoing divisions within the party have seen it drop in opinion polls, bolstering support for Ms Ardern's ruling Labour Party.

Mr Luxon, 51, is politically inexperienced, having entered Parliament only a year ago. He had a successful career with consumer goods giant Unilever Plc before taking the reins of Air New Zealand in 2012.

He left the airline in 2019, just months before the pandemic decimated the travel industry, to campaign for the Auckland seat of Botany in last year's general election.

"I came to politics because I know how to solve problems and get things done," Mr Luxon said.

"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. We are the new National Party that New Zealand needs."

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