Chris Hipkins was sworn in as the 41st prime minister of New Zealand by the governor-general during a ceremony in Wellington on Wednesday. He had served as education and police minister under Jacinda Ardern. “This is the biggest privilege and responsibility of my life,” Hipkins said after formally taking office, news agency AFP reported. “I’m energised and excited by the challenges ahead,” he further said.
Along with Hipkins, Carmel Sepuloni was also sworn in as deputy prime minister. This was for the first time that a person with Pacific Island heritage has taken on the role. Hipkins and incoming deputy prime minister Carmel Sepuloni arrived there about 11.20 am for the swearing-in ceremony, RNZ reported
Last week, Jacinda Ardern, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, said she no longer had “enough in the tank” after steering the country through natural disasters, its worst-ever terror attack, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Her Labour government has increasingly struggled in the polls over the past two years, hampered by soaring inflation, a looming recession, and a resurgent conservative opposition.
Ardern made her last public appearance as prime minister on Wednesday, walking out of parliament as hundreds of onlookers broke into a spontaneous round of applause.
Hipkins, who led New Zealand’s pandemic response, now has the responsibility to revive the government’s sagging popularity ahead of a general election in October. Hipkins was first elected to parliament in 2008 and was appointed minister for Covid-19 in November 2020. Hipkins describes himself as a “regular, ordinary Kiwi” from a working-class background who loves sausage rolls and cycling to work. He has promised a back-to-basics approach focusing on the economy and what he described as the “pandemic of inflation.”
“Covid-19 and the global pandemic created a health crisis. Now it’s created an economic one and that’s where my government’s focus will be,” Hipkins has said previously, AFP reported.