Christopher Luxon National’s new Botany candidate

Former Air New Zealand boss Christopher Luxon has won the National Party nomination to contest the Botany seat in next year’s general election.

Luxon went head-to-head tonight in a candidate selection meeting against four other candidates. He beat them all on the first ballot.

“I’m incredibly humbled to be chosen as National’s candidate in Botany and am grateful to the party delegates for their support,” Luxon said.

“Botany is a part of who I am. I lived here growing up, attended local schools, and the hard-working, middle-class values that were instilled in me then are my values today.

“You can find everything that makes Auckland a great global city here, and I will be working incredibly hard to be Botany’s next National MP.”

Luxon, seen by many pundits as a potential National Party leader, endorsed current leader Simon Bridges in a statement shortly after his victory tonight.

“Botany, and New Zealand, needs an effective National Government. Simon Bridges leads a team that knows how to get things done and is ready to hit the ground running.

“My message to Botany voters is that you deserve an MP you can trust and be proud of, in a National Government whose bottom line is you.”

The other contenders were list MP Agnes Loheni, local board chair Katrina Bungard, cancer drug campaigner Troy Elliott and tech businessman Jake Bezzant.

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Luxon won selection at the end of a meeting in which each candidate presented their credentials to a crowd of 160, including 60 voting delegates. The party stages the voting in rounds, with the lowest polling candidate dropping out until one of the remaining candidates has secured over 50 per cent of the vote.

The meeting took less than two hours. All five candidates gave strong, highly motivated speeches, but Luxon’s stood out for its polished assurance. His quick election was greeted with acclaim.

Christopher Luxon, National's new candidate for Botany. Photo / Michael Craig
Christopher Luxon, National’s new candidate for Botany. Photo / Michael Craig

Botany has a large party membership, which means those members, and not head office, chose the voting delegates. In recent weeks, as is usual in the National Party, all the candidates have been wooing the delegates, visiting them in their homes and attending other question-and-answer sessions.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key publicly endorsed Luxon last month, calling him a “world-class candidate”.

Bridges said Mr Luxon’s selection showed that National’s status as the home of talent remained firmly in place.

“It is no accident that we attract strong candidates like Christopher, given we’re the most popularly supported party in Parliament and the largest and most effective Opposition this country has ever seen,” Bridges said.

“Christopher shares National’s belief that government has a responsibility to spend tax dollars carefully and in a way that delivers results.

“I know he’s going to run a strong, successful campaign here because the people of Botany are sick of a staggeringly incompetent Labour Government that delegates everything to working groups, is soft on crime, and continues to tax Kiwis through the teeth.

“I’m looking forward to campaigning with Christopher in Botany, and to having him join us in a National Government in 2020.”

Bridges was careful before the selection not to express a preference.

Botany is normally regarded as a safe National seat, which should mean Luxon will become an MP for as long as he wants the job.

But the presence of Jami-Lee Ross complicates that.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross talking to reporters during his standoff with National Party leader Simon Bridges, earlier this year. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross talking to reporters during his standoff with National Party leader Simon Bridges, earlier this year. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Ross is the current MP for Botany, a job he has held since 2011, and has declared his intention to stand again in 2020. He’s an independent now, having been expelled from the National caucus and quitting the party in October last year.

Ross was once a very popular local politician. He held the seat in 2017 with a comfortable majority of 12,839, winning 62 per cent of the total votes cast. Before entering Parliament he was a Manukau City councillor and then an Auckland councillor.

He fell from grace with National in an overlapping series of scandals, involving accusations against him of bullying, sexually predatory behaviour and extra-marital affairs, including one with another MP. He countered with his own charges of corruption, levelled at Bridges as party leader.

Since leaving National he has not put his popularity to the test.

National Party leader Simon Bridges responding to attacks by MP Jami-Lee Ross, at Parliament earlier this year. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National Party leader Simon Bridges responding to attacks by MP Jami-Lee Ross, at Parliament earlier this year. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Luxon’s selection was widely predicted as likely but not inevitable. National Party electorates often choose a local person in preference to a high flyer or head office favourite. Botany itself did that in 2011, when it selected Ross over the much more nationally prominent Maggie Barry.

More recently, though, the Northcote electorate accepted the head-office favourite Dan Bidois for the 2018 byelection, ahead of several high-profile local candidates.

Luxon is a newcomer to politics, although he was appointed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last year to chair her advisory committee on business. He relinquished that role on his retirement from Air New Zealand in September.

Luxon enters the National ranks with high expectations held for him: He’s tipped by many as a future leader, although that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

He does not live in the electorate, but he did grow up and go to school there. He was a senior executive at Air New Zealand for nine years, including seven as chief executive, and is an evangelical Christian with socially conservative views.