Nathan Guy's decision to step down at the next election has opened the gate for Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller, the National Party's new primary industries spokesman.
Muller, a former Zespri boss and Fonterra executive, speaks to The Country's Jamie Mackay about his rural past and what he sees for the future of New Zealand agriculture.
Scroll down to listen to the interview.
Mackay: The National Party has a new voice when it comes to agriculture after Nathan Guy's rather surprising decision to stand down yesterday and the voice is now Todd Muller, a Bay of Plenty MP. Todd, you've got a very good background in agriculture through Zespri and Fonterra - do you want to tell the nation about it?
Muller: Yes my background's kiwifruit and dairy, basically. My family bought a Chinese gooseberry orchard in the early 70s and the family are still on it. Of course I had a period of time before this job as an MP. I worked at Fonterra, up in the Auckland office, for a few years.
So it's in my blood and I love it.
Mackay: Todd, you're showing your age there. A Chinese gooseberry orchard?
Muller: Yes, I am showing my age a bit, but that's what it was. We had the Monty and the Bruno varieties, which any of your listeners who come from the kiwifruit backgrounds know were non-starters - tasted good - but faded quickly. A little bit like this Government, perhaps.
[We] then moved on to the Hayward variety, which is still the mainstay and of course Gold has come on after the Psa challenges to be just astoundingly successful.
Agri-business is the heart of my family and it's the heart of this country and my job as I see it over the next 18 months is, as you said, be the voice for rural New Zealand, because quite frankly with this Government we are way down the pecking order.
The narrative needs to change. Our sector needs to be celebrated not condemned and I'm going to be the voice for that.
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Mackay: Well, good on you. Zespri and then Fonterra. Why did you leave Fonterra to become a politician? Because we all know Fonterra pays very well, it certainly used to under Theo's reign. You've taken a huge pay cut to do this job, to be the voice.
Muller: Yes. Occasionally my wife reminds me of this actually. Look, it's something I'd always wanted to do. My late grandparents, Henry and Eileen Skidmore
from Te Aroha, they were mayor and mayoress, they were a massive part of my life, [they] lived into their late 80s and 90s.
Their demonstration of service really had quite a profound impact on me. That plus falling in love with US politics when I was at university meant that I was always wanting to be here.
I worked for Bolger when Jim Bolger was Prime Minister but decided to peel off, have a bit of commercial experience for a decade or two, and when this seat came up, the great seat of the Bay of Plenty, I just had to do it, and I love the job.
Mackay: You're filling in, by the way, on the show today for Jacinda [Ardern], who is unavailable because she's in the islands. What would her theme song be?
Muller: You'd have to think, would we say, ah - Six Months in a Leaky Boat?
Mackay: Well, that's very nasty of you, Todd.
Muller: Well, not really. I think the boat's analogous of her government and it seems to be that she spends most of her time offshore these days than onshore.
But there's a serious point there right? That actually this country at the moment is under some pressure, this government is not delivering in my view, with the sorts of priorities that we need to have from the government.
They're all talk. They haven't been able to deliver against their strategies, be it KiwiBuild, you know an economy that's gone from 10,000 jobs a month to losing.
And that is something, Jamie, and these things often with these stats they just sort of roll of the tongue right? But we lost the election 18 months ago at a time when the economy was growing 4 per cent a year and creating 10,000 jobs a month.
Now the economy is almost half that and it's going backwards and there are now more people on job seeker benefits than there were two years ago.
So you've got to ask the question. Do these guys actually have what it takes to run a government? And I don't think they do. They have what it takes in their leader, to give nice warm speeches that make people feel good for a moment, but it dissipates quickly and what stands behind it, is a set of individuals that haven't done the thinking, haven't had commercial experience and don't know how to run the show.
Mackay: I saw you do a piece on Q&A a couple of weeks ago with Jack Tame on climate change and it was like, for dummies like me, it was climate change 101 and I thought you spelled it out very nicely. You've lost climate change to take on agriculture and primary industries. Is your job a promotion? Or is it a sideways shift?
Well I see it absolutely as a promotion. Because this country's built on our primary industries and I have a passionate belief that it is a huge part of who we are as a county today, and what we will become over the next 20 years.
The world population, currently 7.7 billion, is going to grow to 10. We are seen already as one of the world's best producers, be it in an emissions context or and environmental impact context, of food and fibre - and we need to build on that.
Firstly we need to start celebrating it, as opposed to whacking it every five minutes and change the narrative on that and, as I say, I see that's very much part of my job.
We've got huge opportunities in front of us as the primary industries to grow and to be more successful over the next 10, 20 years.
Now that will mean change. We all know that. Any listener knows, looking back on their farm or orchard, or vineyard or whatever it is, if they look back 20 years and what they were doing versus today - it's night and day.
Everyone knows change is a constant but it's got to be done in a way that means we're still successful.
And our competitive advantage globally that exists here, low-cost farming systems, lots of water that should be, in my view, treated strategically, they should be the underpinnings of our next 20 years.
Listen to Jamie Mackay's interview with Nathan Guy below: