Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says it’s an ‘enormous privilege’ to be elected leader of the National Party, and has thanked his colleagues for the opportunity to lead ‘a strong, united and focused opposition’.
Deputy leader Paula Bennett has also been re-elected to her position after the vote in caucus this morning.
“Growing up in Te Atatu with a Pakeha mum and Maori dad, I never thought I’d have this opportunity to make such a difference to the lives of New Zealanders,” says Simon, who is the 12th leader of the National Party and its first leader of Maori descent.
“My focus as leader will be ensuring we build on those policies to improve the lives of New Zealanders.
“Our caucus has an incredible depth of talent and abundant energy which is why we continue to enjoy so much support. New Zealanders believe in our vision for New Zealand and in our team.
“My job will be to hold the Jacinda Ardern-Winston Peters coalition to account.
“We’ll support the things we believe are bringing our country forward, while opposing the things we see as making us tread water or go backwards.”
He says the current government is ‘big on lofty intentions’, but he does not believe they are turning into real gains for New Zealanders.
“This government, I believe, takes our economy for granted. New Zealanders know that after governments like this, National are the economic managers who pick up the pieces.
“That’s why we will continue to present an ambitious and strong alternative government heading into 2020.
Simon says in the coming weeks there will be ‘reshuffle’ in caucus, while he will ensure New Zealanders get to know him better and the direction he intends to take the National Party.
“I would like to commend Amy, Steven, Judith and Mark for putting themselves forward, and our colleagues for the constructive way we have handled this important decision. That gives me great confidence.”
He has also expressed ‘delight’ that Paula Bennett has been selected as his deputy.
“Paula brings great experience and ability to draw people together and I know she will continue to do an excellent job.”
Although he would not divulge details of the caucus vote, he says he was elected after two ballots, while two people stood for the role of deputy.
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller has congratulated his fellow Tauranga MP and wishes him well in the leadership role.
"Simon is an experienced politician who has held a number of senior roles both as a minister and shadow leader of the house. He is a competent political operator who is going to test the government at every turn.
“All of those who put their hand up to be leader would have been outstanding choices. We carried out a robust contest of ideas and Simon has emerged on the other side with a united caucus standing behind him."