WELLINGTON: Chris Hipkins was sworn in as New Zealand’s 41st Prime Minister on Wednesday, following the unexpected resignation last week of Jacinda Ardern.
Hipkins, 44, promised a back-to-basics approach focused on the economy and what he described as the “inflation pandemic”.
He will have less than nine months before contesting a tough general election, with opinion polls indicating his Labor party is trailing his Conservative opposition.
Governor General of New Zealand Cindy Kiro presided over the brief swearing-in ceremony in front of his friends and colleagues after accepting Ardern’s resignation.
“It’s the greatest privilege and responsibility of my life,” Hipkins said at the ceremony. “I am energized and excited about the challenges ahead of me.”
Carmel Sepuloni was also sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister, the first time a person of Pacific Islander descent has assumed the role. She congratulated Hipkins and thanked him for the trust he had placed in her.
After the ceremony, Hipkins said as an aside to reporters, “It feels pretty real now.”
Hipkins is known to many by the nickname “Chippy”, which matches his upbeat attitude and his skills as a hobbyist.
He served as Minister of Education and Police under Arden. He rose to public prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he took on some kind of crisis management role. But he and other liberals have long been in the shadow of Ardern, who has become a global icon of the left and exemplified a new style of leadership.
Ardern said last week that she was quitting after more than five years in the role because she didn’t have “enough in the tank” to do the job justice. “It’s as simple as that,” she said.
On Tuesday she made her last official appearance as Prime Minister, saying what she would miss most were the people because they had been the “joy of the job”. On Wednesday morning, she was greeted with hugs and farewells by dozens of former staff and admirers on the forecourt of Parliament as she left the building.
Ardern plans to stay on as a backbencher until April to avoid calling a special election before the country’s general election in October.
New Zealand’s head of state is Britain’s King Charles III, and Kiro is his representative in New Zealand, although these days the nation’s relationship with the monarchy is largely symbolic.
Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate, thanked Ardern on Twitter “for your friendship, leadership and support over the years, especially at the time of my grandmother’s passing. Sending you, Clarke and Neve, our best wishes. W&C”
Clarke Gayford is Ardern’s fiancĂ© and Neve is their 4-year-old daughter.

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