By Farida Master
After months of speculation, former Air New Zealand Chief executive Christopher Luxon was officially elected on Monday evening as the National Party candidate to rival independent candidate Jami-Lee Ross in the Botany Electorate for the 2020 General Election.
The air was rife with anticipation at the Pakuranga Golf Club as the countdown to the formal voting process began with five final candidates –National list MP Agnes Lohini, globe-trotting Jake Bezzant, small business owner Troy Elliot, Luxon and Howick Local Board member Katrina Bungard — being given a time slot of 10 minutes to make their opening speech.
Candidates addressed a packed hall and faced 60 local National Party delegates as well as National Party supporters and politicians including Paula Bennett, Judith Collins, Maggie Barry and local MP Simeon Brown.
Following their speeches each candidate had to answer two questions and then were asked to leave the room.
While every candidate passionately spoke about things closest to their heart, from strong family values to health and disability, and opening a new techie hub in Botany providing employment to over 700 people, Luxon used his broad life skills and experience to suggest strategies on how to move beyond ideology and get things done.
About his upbringing he said, “This is the place that gave me values I grew up with. I used to deliver the Howick and Pakuranga Times newspaper, was part of the Boys Brigade, studied at Cockle Bay Primary and Howick College and was the first in my family to go to University.
“To me, business is all about ultimate team spirit and whether it was sitting and spending time with people at the call centre or baggage department or working with the cleaning crew, it is when you reach out to people one- on-one that you can connect and understand them.
“This is a very unique electorate with diverse groups that has people who have lived here for 40 years and some for just four months and they all have worked to incredibly hard to be in this electorate. They have ambition and aspirations,” he said.
Talking of his experience of working on a marketing plan for Magnum ice-cream for the China market (when he headed Unilever) he spoke about targeting a tailored message to connect with different communities.
Once the speeches were done, the National Party delegates were asked to vote without getting influenced by anyone.
Luxon won by a clear majority and was surrounded by well-wishers.
“There is still a lot for me to learn. I feel like I am starting in the third form again,” said the quick learner. “I think if you love people this is a great job to be in. I’ll be fighting hard to earn Botany’s trust. I’ll ensure we don’t waste another three years with a Labour-led Government that Kiwis can’t afford.”
Botany MP Jami-Lee responds:
“The privilege of representing a community in Parliament is a decision made only by voters, not media commentators or political parties. Botany voters will decide in the next year who can be their best advocate on the ground in our community.
With MMP, voters can choose the party they want to run the country, and also who is going to stand up for them the most on local issues. A new backbench MP from Labour or National would have to sit up the back and take instructions from a political party.
I get things done for Botany because I sit in the middle of the two major parties and can work with either side in the best interests of locals. I am local with 15 years of experience, and someone who is proven to be a vocal advocate, getting wins for Botany.”