Rural sector an "absolutely huge" priority for Todd Muller

Todd Muller became leader of the National Party on Friday.
Todd Muller became leader of the National Party on Friday. Photo credit: Getty

National's new leader says agribusiness will be "front of mind" for him if he becomes the country's new Prime Minister later this year.

Todd Muller became leader of the Opposition on Friday after his party voted him in to replace Simon Bridges ahead of the country's general election in September.

Muller, who since 2019 has been National's spokesperson for agriculture, biosecurity, food safety and forestry, has a strong rural background, coming from a family of farmers.

His parents started the kiwifruit company Apata, now one of the biggest in the industry.

Muller says the rural sector will be an "absolutely huge" priority for him if he becomes Prime Minister.

"Of course I've signalled that as Prime Minister I'll be Minister for Small Business but agribusiness is my history, it's my pedigree, it's where I built my career and it's a massive part of my lived experience, if you like - so it will always be front of mind," Muller told Magic Talk on Sunday. 

"[It's] partly because of who I am, but partly because it's such a critical enablement of our wealth."

On Sunday, Muller received the backing of Federated Farmers, which said his new position was promising for the primary industries.

"I think it's really positive we have a leader of a major party with an extensive background in agriculture - in a business sense but also a philosophical sense. I think it's really practical having a person who had a spokesmanship in agriculture take on leadership," Federated Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland told Newshub.

Speaking to Magic Talk, Muller criticised both the current Government and past Labour Governments for being "too quick to dismiss the opportunity and value that the agri sector brings to the country". 

He also said the Government was too quick to assume that the agri sector was "going to be surpassed by other sectors that are just around the corner".

Muller, who has also served as National's spokesperson for climate change, indicated that he would continue to push for a more environmental focus in the industry.

"There's opportunities that sit within this sector to grow more, sell more at a higher value but also as they do that in an environmentally sustainable way. And I think we're best placed to do that," he said.