The National Party caucus has elected Todd Muller leader, ousting Simon Bridges.
Nikki Kaye will be Muller's deputy, taking the job from Paula Bennett.
Muller said Paul Goldsmith would remain National's finance spokesperson, even though at the start of the day Goldsmith said he backed Bridges.
“There is no Team Todd, there is no Team Nikki, or anyone else – there is only Team National,” Muller said in a statement following the vote.
“National has always been a coalition of city and country, business and community, conservatives and liberals – National is the party for all New Zealanders.
“New Zealanders need a National Government with the experience and management skills to get our country through the worst crisis since the end of the Second World War.
“My focus as leader is our country’s economic recovery and the strengthening of every community throughout New Zealand.”
'I'm not interested in opposition for opposition's sake. We’re all tired of that kind of politics'
Speaking at a press conference, Muller was joined on stage by Kaye, Goldsmith, Shane Reti, Chris Bishop, Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee. Nicola Willis sat next to his wife, Michelle.
Muller wouldn't say whether all the MPs alongside him voted for him, however Bishop and Willis expressed support for Muller over Twitter after the vote. Collins wouldn't say who she backed.
Muller made a dig at Bridges in his speech, saying: "This is what you can expect from my leadership: First and foremost I'm about what's best for you and your family, not what's wrong with the Government.
"And I'm not interested in opposition for opposition's sake. We’re all tired of that kind of politics. I'm about ideas that get results.
"I’m proud of working across Parliament on the Zero Carbon Act. Wherever I have the opportunity to work with other parties for our country’s good, I will do so.
"Will I criticise the Government? Yes...
"I believe in enterprise, reward for hard work, personal responsibility, and in the power of strong families and communities.
"Fundamentally, I don’t believe that for each and every one of us to do better, someone else has to be worse off."
Muller went on to say: “I am the first to admit and acknowledge that the Government’s handling of COVID-19 was overall impressive. And I think that most New Zealanders would feel the same.
“But to judge a government on your ability to manage a crisis in eight weeks in a health context, against a threshold of, 'do you have the capacity sitting around a cabinet to design an economic recovery when all your performance measures in the previous two and a half years have been a failure?' I think that doesn’t work. I think the country knows it doesn’t work.”
While Muller didn't credit Bridges in his statement, he credited him in the press conference.
Bridges taking stock
Meanwhile Bridges tweeted:
More time for the most important job I have. Thank you New Zealand. pic.twitter.com/q47X9r3bK8— Simon Bridges (@simonjbridges) May 22, 2020
Bridges later in a press conference said he would "take a bit of stock" before deciding what next.
Muller said he would give Bridges a senior position in the party.
With Bennett and his wife Natalie by his side, Bridges said: “Often at times, whether it’s COVID-19 or March 15, there’s a sense of wanting to help, but feeling powerless to do so. And wanting to react, and sometimes, dare I say it, overreacting.”
Bridges on Wednesday summoned MPs to Wellington for a meeting to vote on the leadership at midday Friday.
The move followed a catastrophic Newshub-Reid Research Poll released on Monday and an even worse 1 News-Colmar Brunton Poll on Thursday.
Support for National fell to 29% in the 1 News poll, and 31% in the Newshub one, meanwhile support for Bridges as preferred prime minister sunk to 5% in both polls.
According to the 1 News Poll, Muller received only 0.2% support as preferred prime minister.
Here's a copy of Muller's maiden speech in full:
The past few months, our country has made many sacrifices.
You have made many sacrifices. You have put a lot on the line to get us through this crisis.
Now, we must begin taking another step forward together, with confidence.
The confidence to rebuild our country, rebuild our economy and to restore the livelihoods of New Zealanders.
Only a National Government can provide the leadership to do that.
That is why we must win the next election.
Nikki and I, and our team, understand that the task for the next Government is immense. We’re honoured by the opportunity to lead this party.
We take it seriously.
I would like to thank and acknowledge Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett.
Simon has worked hard as leader, given the job his all, and the caucus is grateful for his service.
Both he and Paula have served the party and our country well.
Thank you to my wife Michelle and our three children for supporting me on this journey. Kids, Dad will be home soon.
I want to pause here and acknowledge New Zealand’s tremendous response to the health crisis ravaging the world.
We should all be proud of what we’ve achieved together.
But regardless of these efforts, Covid-19 has hurt us.
My absolute focus as National Party Leader will be New Zealand's economic recovery.
We will save jobs, get the economy growing again and we will do so by leveraging our country’s great strengths: our people, our communities, our great natural resources, our values of hard work, tenacity, innovation and aspiration.
I know the size of this task and I will bring my all to it.
Yes, I’ve run businesses. I can read a balance sheet and a profit and loss account. I can tell a good one from a bad one. And yes, I’ll bring those skills to the Prime Ministership.
But that’s not what drives me.
What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; the dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; the mum who coaches a touch rugby team.
This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in - the economy in your community - your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.
This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand.
For too long this economy – your economy – and your life has been invisible to decision makers in Wellington.
This must change, and under my National Government it will change.
The economy that I believe in is the one you live in. It is the economy of your community.
If we can rebuild that, we can rebuild our country.
This is what you can expect from my leadership: First and foremost I'm about what's best for you and your family, not what's wrong with the Government.
And I'm not interested in opposition for opposition's sake. We’re all tired of that kind of politics.
I'm about ideas that get results.
I’m proud of working across Parliament on the Zero Carbon Act.
Wherever I have the opportunity to work with other parties for our country’s good, I will do so.
Will I criticise the Government? Yes.
But ultimately, values and ideas are what ground me. Like the idea that you can shape your own future and are free to do so.
I believe in enterprise, reward for hard work, personal responsibility, and in the power of strong families and communities.
Fundamentally, I don’t believe that for each and every one of us to do better, someone else has to be worse off.
Those are National’s values. They are New Zealand values.
I don’t believe the right values or the right management skills are guiding our country as it confronts its biggest challenge since the end of the Second World War.
I will lead a party that rises to the great challenges facing us as a nation.
Labour has failed against every measure it has set for itself in Government – KiwiBuild, light rail, child poverty, prison numbers.
If we continue on this track of talking a big game but failing to deliver, we simply won’t recognise the New Zealand we are part of in a few years’ time.
Because New Zealanders know that, whether or not they support National, they can have confidence that National will meet the challenges our country faces.
New Zealand, it is time for your sacrifice to be repaid and for your community to be rebuilt.
Today, that work has just begun.
Who are Muller and Kaye?
Muller towards the start of the current term of government made a name for himself as a climate conscious National MP, as he worked collaboratively with Climate Change Minister James Shaw to ensure Shaw’s Zero Carbon Bill had cross-party support.
In mid-2019 he become agriculture spokesperson - an important job for the National Party as the sector faced a number of regulatory changes around water quality, emissions pricing and land use changes to promote forestry.
Muller is also National’s spokesperson for biosecurity, food safety and forestry. First elected in 2014, he’s the MP for the Bay of Plenty.
Muller is a former Zespri general manager, Apata (kiwifruit and avocado post-harvest service) CEO, and most recently, Fonterra corporate affairs director.
While Muller was only ranked 16th on the National Party list, Kaye was seventh.
Muller is a Catholic and Kaye describes herself as an "urban liberal".
Kaye has been the MP for Auckland Central since 2008, beating Ardern when she ran in this seat in 2011 and 2014.
Kaye is National’s spokesperson for education, sport and recreation. She held a number of ministerial portfolios during National’s previous terms in government, including education, ACC, youth affairs and civil defence.
Of particular interest to interest.co.nz readers, Kaye is continuing to lead a campaign to try to reform the Unit Titles Act to strengthen the management of apartments and townhouses.