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New National Party leader Todd Muller: 'I'm not interested in opposition for opposition's sake'

Todd Muller says his "absolute focus" as the new National Party leader will be New Zealand's economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Muller has addressed his first media conference as the new National Party leader after defeating incumbent Simon Bridges in a special caucus meeting this afternoon.

Watch the media conference here:

"First and foremost I am about what's best for you and your family, not what's wrong with the government.

"I'm not interested in opposition for opposition's sake. We're all tired of that kind of politics.

Muller said New Zealanders have made many sacrifices over the past few months.

"You have put a lot on the line to get us through this crisis and now we must begin taking another step forward to rebuild our country, to 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.

"We should all be proud of what we have achieved together. Covid-19 has hurt us. My absolute focus as the National Party leader will be New Zealand's economic recovery."

He said the size of the task was enormous.

"I will bring my all to it. Yes, I have run a business, I can read a balance sheet and a P and L, and I know a good one from a bad one. And I will bring those skills to the Prime Ministership. But that is 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 runs the food stall at the local school fair, the mum who coaches a local touch rugby team."

He said the main focus of this election would be the economy.

"But not the economy that bureaucracy talks about, it'll be the economy you live in. The economy in your community, your job, your main street, your tourism business, your marae, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families. And this is the economy National MPs are grounded in."

Muller confirmed that Paul Goldsmith will stay on as Finance spokesperson and also thanked Bridges and former deputy leader Paula Bennett.

"Simon has worked hard as leader and has given the job his all. Both he and Paula have served the country well."

Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye has been named as the new deputy leader, replacing Bennett.

National MPs met behind closed doors at midday, hearing addresses from both Bridges and Muller before casting their ballots.

Muller said in a statement afterwards that he was focusing on "Team National" and its role in helping the country rebuild after the Covid-19 pandemic.

"My focus as leader is our country's economic recovery and the strengthening of every community throughout New Zealand," he said.

New National Party leader Todd Muller prepares to make his first statement as leader. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Bridges has posted a tweet thanking New Zealand and saying the result will leave him with "more time for the most important job I have" referring to his family.

More time for the most important job I have. Thank you New Zealand. pic.twitter.com/q47X9r3bK8

— Simon Bridges (@simonjbridges) May 22, 2020

Two polls this week that showed a sharp decline in voters' support for National and little taste for Bridges' leadership seemed to seal the previous leader's fate.

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