Following the resignation of outgoing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week, Labour leader Chris Hipkins was sworn in as New Zealand’s prime minister in a formal ceremony on Wednesday, January 25.
On Sunday, the Labour Party chose former COVID-19 Response and Police Minister Hipkins, 44, to lead the party and the country. Ardern, 42, announced her resignation last week, saying she had “nothing left in the tank” to lead the country.
Hundreds gathered in Parliament grounds as Ardern left for the final time, hugging each of her members of parliament in turn, many of whom were visibly emotional.
She then went to Government House to hand in her resignation to King Charles’ representative in New Zealand, Governor General Cindy Kiro.
Hipkins and his deputy, Carmel Sepuloni, the first person of Pacific Islander descent to hold the position, were then sworn in during a brief ceremony.
Hipkins stated that he would honour previous commitments for the current legislative session.
Hipkins, nicknamed “Chippy,” is well-known among New Zealanders for his competence in dealing with COVID-19, though he admitted to making mistakes in dealing with the pandemic and faces a difficult battle to retain power in an October general election.
A December 1News-Kantar poll found Labour’s support dropping to 33% from 40% at the start of 2022, implying the party would be unable to form a majority even with traditional coalition partner the Green Party at 9%. Labour’s decline has benefited the opposition National Party.
Hipkins met with journalists hours later, following his first cabinet meeting as Prime Minister. After being bombarded with questions about the cost of living hours after new price data came in above analyst expectations, Hipkins said he would prioritize the issue on his policy agenda.
However, he resisted announcing new policies right away, saying he would act quickly but not create policy “on the fly.”
“New Zealanders will absolutely see in the coming weeks and months that cost of living is right at the heart of our work program,” he said.
“It is the number one priority that we are facing as a government and they will see tangible evidence of that. Obviously, I’m not going to make it up on the fly, as I’ve already indicated.”
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