Hipkins sworn in as New Zealand Prime Minister as Ardern bows


The 44-year-old faces an uphill battle to lead the ruling Labor Party to victory in October’s election amid rising inflation and a looming recession.

Labor party leader Chris Hipkins has been sworn in as New Zealand’s new prime minister following the surprise resignation of Jacinda Ardern last week.

Hipkins formally took office in the presence of New Zealand’s Governor General – the representative of Britain’s King Charles, who is the country’s head of state – in the capital, Wellington.

Carmel Sepuloni was also sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister at the ceremony, the first person of Pacific Islander descent to hold the role.

“This is the greatest privilege and responsibility of my life,” Hipkins said afterwards.

“I am energized and excited by the challenges ahead.”

The 44-year-old, who previously led the country’s COVID-19 response, was chosen to lead the party on Sunday after Arden announced she would step down.

Hundreds of people gathered on the Parliament grounds and burst into spontaneous applause as Ardern left for the last time.

She hugged each of her MPs in turn, many looking visibly moved, before traveling to Government House, where she tendered her resignation to Governor General Cindy Kiro.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni (left) is the first Pacific Islander to hold the position [Marty Melville/AFP]

Ardern was first elected Prime Minister in 2017, before riding a wave of “Jacindamania” to secure a second term with a landslide victory in 2020.

But her center-left government has struggled over the past two years, hampered by skyrocketing inflation, a looming recession and a resurgent opposition.

Hipkins is known as “Chippy” and is known by New Zealanders for his competence in tackling COVID-19.

He describes himself as a “plain, ordinary, working-class Kiwi” who loves sausage rolls and cycling to work.

“COVID-19 and the global pandemic created a health crisis. Now it has created an economic one and that is what my administration will focus on,” Hipkins previously said.

A 1News-Kantar poll published in December 2022 showed Labor support falling from 40 per cent at the start of the year to 33 per cent, meaning that even at 9 per cent Labor would not be able to form a majority with its traditional coalition partner the Green Party.

The Conservative National Party has benefited from Labour’s downturn.

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