Christopher Luxon gets warm reception as he meets the public in Tauranga

National leader Christopher Luxon was applauded and cheered after a press conference deep in Simon Bridges territory on Thursday.

The former Air New Zealand chief executive has been leader of the embattled political party for less than 48 hours but appears to have had a warm reception in Tauranga where he fronted up to media to announce Bridges, a former leader, would have the Finance and Infrastructure roles in his shadow Cabinet.

Luxon held his press conference at The Fresh Market in Gate Pa, Tauranga, an electorate Bridges won in 2020 by a little under 2000 votes. Labour, however, took out the party vote by 10 percentage points.

Bridges, who dropped out of Tuesday's leadership content to allow Luxon to take the top job unopposed, was scheduled to be at the media standup as well but had to skip it last minute as his son had had an accident at school.

"I had wanted to come and see him here and I actually wanted to come and see this business. I think it is appropriate. I want to make sure that we see someone who has made an investment," Luxon said.

"When business people go to the bank, almost 30 percent of them take their mortgages and they go and invest that money in their businesses. You are taking a big punt. Then you have an idea, and then you take a big risk. You hire people. You make a business happen. That's the stuff that we have got to do."

He was asked if coming to Bridges' territory was about showing a unified approach.

"It's really about the practicality of it. I am on my way back from Wellington to Auckland. I have been in Wellington for the last couple of the weeks," Luxon replied.

"I wanted to pop in here and get going. I don't have any baggage from the past. As a result, that is why I am here: to bring everyone together."

Luxon in Tauranga.
Luxon in Tauranga. Photo credit: Newshub.

A group of onlookers surrounded the press conference as Luxon spoke, some holding up phones to take photos. When he finished he was applauded and cheered by some. He was also approached by a number of locals wanting to talk to him, shake his hand and get a photo.

The National leader then went inside to speak with The Fresh Market owner David Stewart and with employees. Amongst a number of topics, they discussed the need for teamwork in a business and how that was also necessary in politics.

Luxon spoke to a number of employees.
Luxon spoke to a number of employees. Photo credit: Newshub.

Luxon spent much of his press conference speaking up Bridges as a worthy contender to Grant Robertson for Finance Minister. The new leader called him an "outstanding" Minister of Transport in the last National Government who he had a lot to do with as the Air New Zealand boss, and said Bridges had valuable political knowledge.

"Prodigious talent, great skills, big intellect, massive work effort and can sympathise a lot of complexity, and he can balance a budget," Luxon said of Bridges.

Bridges was speculated to have been considering a run for the leadership while Judith Collins was still in the top job. Last Wednesday, Collins suddenly demoted Bridges over an historic allegation of misconduct. Her handling of that event led to a successful no-confidence vote in her, creating a vacancy for the leadership.

Luxon said he "absolutely" trusted Bridges.

"Total trust in him. He is a good friend, and we have been friends for a long time because of our relationship in my past life and the work he did as Minister of Transport."

He maintains that he made no commitments to his caucus colleagues ahead of Tuesday's leadership decision about what portfolio they may be given by him. He will be revealing the rest of his shadow Cabinet at the end of the week.