What really matters to Christopher and Amanda Luxon

As his fight to run the country ramps up, the National Party leader and his wife Amanda talk about the life lessons they’ve taught their kids and how they cope with criticism.
Amanda and Christopher Luxon

It has been a big year for Christopher Luxon and with an election on the horizon, things are set to get even busier in 2023. Still, on a Sunday morning at the National Party leader’s home in Auckland’s Remuera, the vibe is relaxed. Politics is important, but family is a priority too – and this is family time.

Christopher learnt early in his corporate career how to balance the people in his life with the work he had to do. His wife Amanda and their two children, Olivia and William, have always had their share of his time and energy, and if he is voted in as New Zealand’s next prime minister, he is confident that won’t change. He’ll still enjoy swapping music with his kids or going for a walk with Amanda.

“I’ve been really hot on the fact that when I get to 80, it won’t be about what I’ve done, but who I’ve been,” the 52-year-old explains.

“I want to be able to put my arm around my adult son and daughter, and have a good relationship with them.

“Amanda and I want our marriage to get better and better every single year. That’s the important stuff, right? You can come to these extreme jobs, but you’ve got to be really clear about what matters.”

Having seen other people in the business and political worlds whose relationships have suffered, Christopher has developed some routines to guard against the same thing happening in his family. One is something he describes as “pulsing on and pulsing off”, which essentially means that whoever he is with and whatever he is doing get his full attention.

“When my kids were younger, I had this rule that I never wanted them to see me on a weekend with my phone,” he says. “If I was watching a soccer game, I wasn’t there trying to do some email on the sidelines or make a couple of phone calls. I wanted my kids to see that they were the most important thing to me at that moment.”

Some things have changed, of course, since he entered politics. The glare of publicity is much brighter now. If he and Olivia are at the beach trying to surf, people will come up to talk. When he and Amanda are out walking, chances are he’ll be recognised.

Amanda, 54, admits it’s one thing she wasn’t fully prepared for when her husband entered political life. “Christopher had quite

a public face anyway, but this is a lot more public.”

In many other ways, it seems like the former ballet dancer and school teacher has been preparing for years to be a political wife. It didn’t faze her to stand on stage to make a speech in front of hundreds of people at the National Party conference as she has done lots of acting and dancing performances in the past.

“Definitely not singing, though – that’s not my forte,” she admits. “My daughter has got the most amazing singing voice, but she didn’t inherit it from me.”

While Amanda describes herself as an introvert, after years partnering Christopher at corporate events, she is at ease walking into a room full of strangers and making conversation.

“Actually, I find that quite enjoyable because everyone has got an interesting story,” she says. “I’ve made some good friends and acquaintances from turning up in a room where I know nobody and start asking questions.

“One of the things we taught our kids when they were younger was that they always had to sit down to eat with us if we had people over and they had to ask three questions by the time they’d finished dinner. That training comes in handy.”

Kids Olivia and William are making their own way in the world, knowing from a young age that “they were the most important thing to me”, says their dad.

It certainly was useful for daughter Olivia, 21, who became a youth ambassador for Tearfund as a teenage schoolgirl, making speeches and TV appearances as she campaigned against human trafficking. William, 23, is an outgoing personality as well and currently working at Air New Zealand. William is also part way through his commerce degree, with Olivia about to complete

a degree in sociology and criminology at a university in Australia.

In a way, Christopher and Amanda are in what they describe as the “emerging empty-nester phase of life”.

It was a conscious decision for the Luxons to wait until the kids were older and more independent before he went into politics. “I didn’t want their lives to be defined by what their dad does,” explains Christopher.

“We wanted the children to finish off being children,” adds Amanda. “We recognised there would be some impact on them, but we’ve mitigated that by leaving it until they’re making their own decisions.”

Picking a leader

Politics, however, has been on the radar for a long time and, in their home, there are bookshelves filled with the biographies of world leaders. “From a very young chap, I’ve always studied and read,” tells Christopher. “Every year, I’d pick a leader and read through six or seven books, then watch every movie about them.”

While he doesn’t come from a political family, he credits his parents with building a strong foundation for their three sons to succeed in life. His mother Kathleen is a therapist and counsellor in Christchurch, while his father Graham used to be a sales rep. Both have worked hard, and Christopher recalls his childhood home being filled with interesting conversations and people.

“I remember we had one Christmas with Afghan refugees at our house,” he says. “There was always a lot going on. My parents were really, really good at making me think about different people and a range of issues.”

Amanda met him in the kitchen of his parents’ house when she was almost 17 and he was just 15. They were taking part in a car rally that was also a progressive dinner and instantly there was a connection.

“I thought she was amazing – incredible!” recalls Christopher. “We were friends before we started dating and just hung out with a group of young people. Then I needed a partner for dances, so we went off to the Papanui RSA and did our ballroom dancing lessons together.

On meeting Amanda, Christopher says, “I thought she was amazing – incredible.” They celebrate 28 years of marriage in January.

“Amanda is special. She’s thoughtful, grounded and wise. She cares about people and those are the things that made her really attractive to me. We have a lot of fun along the way too. We take our jobs seriously, but we never take ourselves too seriously.”

The couple shares the same faith and although neither is a regular church-goer, it quietly guides what they care about. Christopher shares, “It’s a personal thing. It gives us purpose. The kind of faith I was raised with comes with the idea that you have a responsibility to go out and help people in a community – to stand up and get engaged in stuff.”

He names his heroes as British politician William Wilberforce, who led the movement to abolish the slave trade in the 1800s, Kate Sheppard, who fought for New Zealand women to get the vote, and civil rights activist Martin Luther King.

His sense of wanting to make a difference is what sent Christopher towards politics. “My motivation for doing it is that I think we’ve got a fabulous country and I want it to continue to be an awesome place, and get better economically, socially, culturally, environmentally. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s a really exciting project.”

A lasting love

Amanda will be by his side on the campaign trail. It is a position she has grown used to occupying. During their 16 years of living overseas, as Christopher took postings in Sydney, London, Chicago, Toronto and New York, they became a very tight unit.

His work has involved long hours and lots of travel, and for a relationship to thrive in those circumstances, Amanda says there needs to be good communication and clever scheduling.

“We’ve always maximised the time we’ve had together,” she says. “We’ll go out walking so we can chat through things and even when the kids were little, we always did date nights.”

She believes the secret of longevity in any couple’s relationship is for both people to put the other first. Amanda confides, “Every night when we go to sleep, the last thing Christopher says is, ‘I love you,’ and the first thing he says in the morning is, ‘I love you.’ It’s just really lovely to wake up to that.”

While his is the bigger career, Amanda has never been made to feel as if what she does is any less significant. “That’s one of the amazing things about Christopher,” she says. “My career and my interests are just as important, and he does what he can to support and encourage me. From the very beginning, I loved that about him. We met so young and he was very much about empowering me to be me.”

They are opposites in some ways – he is the extrovert to her introvert – but the combination works. Nowadays, when Christopher is making speeches about leadership to young people, he always emphasises that who you decide to “do life with” is key.

Job satisfaction as CEO of Air New Zealand.

“It’s a decision you’ve got to be so intentional about and get right,” he says, describing Amanda as the heart of the family – the rock who keeps everything going no matter what might be happening and a great person to talk to.

Meanwhile, she says that he is “absolutely my best friend”. Amanda adds, “He knows me like nobody else does and I know him like no one else.”

Politics is a tough and often vicious arena – not a job for anyone thin-skinned or low on resilience. For the family of a politician, it can’t be easy to stand by and see the person they love being criticised. Amanda has developed a few coping strategies. For a start, she stays off social media completely.

“That was a conscious decision,” she says. “I have other ways to connect with people and also it’s so time-consuming.”

Among her good friends is the group of women she plays sport with, none of whom are involved in politics. Amanda is also a runner, and covering her regular 12km every morning is how she stays healthy mentally and physically.

“Running for me has always been this amazing space,” she says. “It’s a time when I can process all the things that I’m trying to think through – a little bit of me-time.”

Running for PM

Christopher doesn’t join her on those runs or on the tennis court as much as he might like. But as an extrovert, what he thrives on is getting out and meeting people. Whether he is sitting in on a business budgeting session, talking to Southland farmers, celebrating Diwali with Auckland’s Indian community, or meeting people working in youth homelessness or animal welfare – all of which he has been doing in the week he meets The Weekly – it’s one of the things he loves most about the job.

“You get to meet amazing people doing incredible things,” enthuses Christopher, who tries to escape Parliament and get around the country as much as he can. “You want that accessibility – to be able to have honest chats with people and hear

their stories.”

It’s a way to discover what is going on and what needs to be done, and also something Christopher finds mentally stimulating. “The way an extrovert works is you get energy from engaging with people. That’s what fills you up.”

The National Party leader with deputy Nicola Willis. “When people get stressed, it’s because they’re not doing the things that fill them up,” he says.

He is very social, and loves gathering friends and family at his home for a party. But while there is always a supply of wine on hand for guests, you won’t find Christopher raising a glass of it. He has never been a drinker.

“That’s partly because as a younger chap, I spent time with my grandfather,” he explains. “He was an awesome guy. I loved him to bits, but he had challenges with alcohol. I remember seeing him out of control and just decided then that it was something

I didn’t want to do.”

Both he and Amanda are active relaxers, and have recently taken up fishing, which is a great way to spend time together as a couple, as well as catch up with friends.

“We’re pretty average at it,” admits Christopher with a laugh. “But we love it. We’ve got a couple of spots we’ve loaded into the GPS, and we hoon out there and give ourselves 10 or 15 minutes to see if we can catch anything.”

Time is very precious and the Luxons have got good at using the time they have purposefully. With National’s campaign ramping up and the pressure intensifying, they hope it is a skill that will stand them in good stead.

“When people get stressed, it’s because they’re not doing the things that fill them up,” suggests Christopher, who suspects he won’t get much of a Christmas holiday this year but will be sure to make space for what matters most. “We’ll try to get some time at a beach if we can, have friends and family over, fill ourselves up like that, and look forward to getting into next year.”

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