New National Party leader Christopher Luxon has joked the reason he stopped going to church was the mounting requests for "free Air New Zealand flights".
Luxon, who has described himself as a "non-denominational Christian", recently confessed he hadn't been to church in the last five years.
Speaking to Q + A's Jack Tame, the former Air New Zealand CEO said, with a wry smile, the reason was: "In part at times I would be hit up for free Air New Zealand flights to the UK, and it got a bit too much."
Luxon, who took over the party leadership this week, has long said his faith is personal to him and he strongly believes in the separation of the church and the State.
"The bottom line is my faith is very personal to me. I don't need to go to church, with my faith," he told Tame.
Despite being far from the first Christian leader of a political party, including the Catholic former National prime minister Bill English, Luxon's religion has been a focal point since he motioned towards a political career.
In 2019, after becoming a candidate, he spoke about his opposition to euthanasia and the Government's abortion reforms.
In February 2020, after he was selected as Botany candidate, he told the Herald he was surprised at the attention being paid to his religion.
"I've been really surprised by the reaction, actually, since I've come into the political life because it's never been an issue before," Luxon said.
"For me, it's a personal thing but it's got nothing to do with my politics.
"I haven't led Air NZ or Unilever as a Christian CEO. I've led it as a CEO who just happens to be a Christian.
"Yes, it drives values, I guess. But I'm not an ideologue who is trying to jam a view of Christianity out on my workforce as a CEO, or as a politician," he said.
He addressed the topic in his maiden speech in March.
"It seems it has become acceptable to stereotype those who have a Christian faith in public life as being 'extreme', so I will say a little about my Christian faith.
"It has anchored me, given my life purpose and shaped my values – and it puts me in the context of something bigger than myself," he said.
Luxon reiterated that religion was "personal" and "not in itself a political agenda".
"I believe no religion should dictate to the State, and no politician should use the political platform they have to force their beliefs on other."
Despite this, Luxon was one of just 15 MPs to vote against the first reading of the bill prohibiting protesting in "safe areas" outside abortion clinics (he now says he will support it at second reading).
Speaking to Tame this morning, Luxon also said he was a "big fan" of raising the minimum wage, as long as the economy was growing enough to sustain it.
In April Luxon criticised the minimum wage increase from $18.90 to $20, saying it was hurting small businesses and the economy was not strong enough to support it.
Luxon told Tame there were mounting costs for small businesses, with sick leave doubling and new public holiday for Matariki, creating disincentives for them to invest in their businesses and create new jobs.
Luxon, who owns seven properties, also spoke about the housing market saying it was "not sustainable" and the Treaty of Waitangi, saying he does not support co-governance for Māori.