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New National Party leader Todd Muller is confident he can juggle the demanding role with his work as Bay of Plenty MP.
And he expects no change to his "professional" relationship with Tauranga MP Simon Bridges, despite having ousted his party neighbour for the top job.
In an emergency meeting yesterday, National's caucus chose Muller as leader and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye as deputy, ending Bridges' stint as leader.
In an interview with the Bay of Plenty Times shortly after his win was announced, Muller said he was "feeling good" and looking forward to coming home today.
"I think the highlight for me will be hugging my three children."
He said it was "very special" to have wife Michelle by his side in Wellington yesterday.
Asked how he would manage his dual roles, Muller said he would "work a bit harder, to the extent you can".
"I am very confident that I will be able to do both roles to the best of my ability. Ultimately it will be the people of the Bay of Plenty who tell me in September whether they are comfortable with my efforts."
He and Bridges have worked closely on regional issues in the past, and Muller expected this would continue.
"We have always worked together professionally very well, and that won't change, and that is a testament to him.
"I have every confidence that the two of us will continue to work closely for the benefit of Tauranga and the wider community."
He said his focus would be the post-Covid 19 economy. Communities such as Papamoa, where his electorate office is, are "under huge pressure right now".
"My focus will be on ensuring that we bring to the country a set of policies that helps Papamoa get back up off the canvas."
In terms of local issues, he said he was passionate about infrastructure.
"Our city, which is the jewel of the national crown, in my opinion, needs to have appropriate investment to ensure that it grows in a way that our people feel comforted and supported and loved, and at the moment that's not happening."
Asked for his message to his Bay of Plenty electorate, Muller said being leader of the opposition was an "extraordinary privilege".
"I am just hugely proud of the opportunity that's been afforded me to lead the New Zealand National Party."
"It matches the pride I have in representing the people of the Bay of Plenty. You know how deeply honoured I am having that role, because it's where I grew up. I have deep, deep connections in that community."
He said the support of people in the Bay of Plenty in the six years he had served as MP was a "huge comfort".
Sean Newland, chairman of the National Party Bay of Plenty electorate committee, said Muller's win was great for the party and for New Zealand.
"Todd will do a great job of bringing the party together."
He shared Muller's confidence in the MP's ability to juggle both roles, but expected they would see less of each other.
"I am confident Todd won't forget the Bay of Plenty and his role as the Bay of Plenty MP."
Newland, who owns an agri-business consultancy and lives in Bridges' Tauranga electorate, said he had known and worked for Muller for many years, including during his time at Fonterra.
"I am committed to helping him not because of his policies but because of the person he is. He is the sort of person who could deliver."
He was confident the leadership change would only be a "blip" for the party. Even if there were some people feeling "bruised", egos would be put aside to focus on the goal of winning the election.
Bridges did not respond to Bay of Plenty Times requests for comment yesterday, but told a press conference he was looking forward to spending more time with his family in Tauranga.
"As someone else once said, I am just happy to be the Member of Parliament for Tauranga. It's a great seat, it's a great place, and I'm just looking forward to getting back there this evening. Spending some time with family, taking stock."
Ron Scott, chairman of the National Party Tauranga electorate committee, said the leadership was something Bridges had always wanted to do, and he would have highs and lows to reflect on.
"From a local party point of view, we wish him all the best."
He said Bridges had already been selected as the party's candidate for Tauranga in the election, and "that's not going to change".
"He's not one to sit around idly twiddling his thumbs, he will be working as hard as anyone else to make sure we get a National government come September."
He did not believe Bridges' reputation in Tauranga had been damaged in his time as party leader.
"Nobody disagrees that he is bright, intelligent, capable. All the skills he has today he will still have tomorrow.
"From a city point of view, it's onwards and upwards."
In Pāpāmoa Plaza yesterday, in Muller's electorate, there was plenty of advice for Muller and Bridges from residents of the suburb.
Lynette Galpin said Bridges should stay in politics and would make a great justice minister.
"I think he's still got a lot to offer."
Helen Lang said she initially liked Bridges but was put off by his leadership style during the lockdown.
She said, in her view, instead of showing unity and support to the Government, ''he was picking holes and criticising".
"I think he really shot himself in the foot doing that."
She said it would be difficult for Muller to confidently show people he was ready, willing and able to be prime minister so close to the election.
Cherie Elseglod, a Labour Party supporter, said if Muller went into the election with the right attitude, focusing on people as well as the economy, he stood a chance of winning.
Mike Wade lived next door to Muller when he was a child and although he did not know him, he knew his parents and said it was good to see a local boy climb through the ranks.
"He's a local Te Puna guy and been brought up in a family that has an appreciation of the importance of horticulture and the land."
Rotorua MP Todd McClay praised the hard work of his "good friend" Bridges.
"He's done an exceptional job over the past two years. He's had the most difficult job to do of any opposition leader in any party in the history of New Zealand."
McClay was confident of the party's election chances under Muller and said he would be an "excellent leader".
The leadership change would give the party "a better opportunity to demonstrate why they should elect a National Government".
"It's good for the National Party and it's great for the Bay of Plenty."
He would not say how he voted in caucus.
Tauranga-based New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell said he had predicted Muller would one day be leader "and today is that day".
"He's organised, likeable, everything you want in leadership."
He said he hoped Muller would be open to a genuine mixed-member proportional discussion, unlike the dismissal Bridges gave this year on working with New Zealand First .
He said Bridges deserved respect for the job he had done as leader in a challenging time.
Local Labour list MPs Jan Tinetti and Angie Warren-Clark hoped to continue their good working relationships with Muller but said their focus was on their own party's work and values.
Tinetti said her heart went out to Bridges, but it was good for Tauranga to have a person in leadership from the area.
They sent their commiserations to Bridges, as did the Western Bay sub-region's three council leaders and Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley.
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said Bridges had served the country and the region extremely well.
"Politics is a tough game.
"My congratulations to Todd, I am looking forward to working with him."
Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber said of the result: "I supposed because [Muller] is a Te Puna boy that's positive as he comes from the Western Bay of Plenty."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman Doug Leeder said politics was a "cruel business" and he believed Bridges had done his best.
He said Muller was accomplished in his career, values and his family life.
Bob Clarkson, a former Tauranga MP who backed Bridges for the leadership this week, said he was "neutral" about the decision of the caucus.
"They are no better off and no worse off."
Bridges had made some missteps and remarks he shouldn't have, but he also had a "pretty rough time" being up against a popular prime minister with a very high profile, especially during Covid-19.
"I would be much more worried about paying the debt back than I would about Simon getting dumped."
Street view: What do you think about Todd Muller being chosen as National's new leader over Simon Bridges?
I know Todd personally as well as professionally and he is a nice man. I think he'll make a great leader. I think he'll come into his own. A lot of people haven't heard about him but we know him in this region.
Karyl Gunn-Thomas, 52
I feel sorry for Simon but I think the media took a dislike to him, I don't know why. I think he was vilified a lot. But I'm very pleased Todd's there, I think he's an excellent candidate. I like his business background, he's got a lot to offer.
Lynette Galpin, 69
I'd be voting for [Muller]. I find him amiable, community-orientated, easy to talk to, I think he'd do well. Todd's got a bit more charisma.
Caryl Deal, 60
I think it's most definitely better for National. He doesn't speak like he's attacking the opposition. I've always been Labour but I'm going to stay open to see what's going to
Cherie Elseglod, 64
Simon was definitely ready to go, I think he's done as much as he could. The little I know about Todd, I think he'll probably be a better candidate, it sounds like he's got quite a lot of experience. They needed to change the leader.
Helen Lang, 62