Jacinda Ardern’s pick Chris Hipkins endorsed as next New Zealand prime minister


As New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Adern hands over the reins of power to new Labour leader Chris Hipkins an old photo shows the historical bond between the pair runs very deep and halfway across the globe.

A photo has emerged of a youthful Ms Adern and Mr Hipkins beaming at the camera in London’s Hyde Park 16 years ago.

Greg O’Beirne, who is Professor of Audiology at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury, dug up the old shot and posted it on Twitter a day before Mr Hipkins took over as leader of the ruling Labour party from Ms Ardern. 

Chris Hipkins (pictured right) is set to take over as New Zealand prime minister from Jacinda Adern (pictured left) following his endorsement as Labour leader on Sunday

’16 years ago, two future New Zealand Prime Ministers hanging out in Hyde Park, London,’ the professor tweeted.

He also informed Twitter users the original caption read: ‘Former Wellingtonians Jacinda and Chris – the NZ Memorial ceremony seemed to have left them in excellent spirits’.

The pair had attended the unveiling of the New Zealand Memorial in London’s Hyde Park on Remembrance Day 2006. 

After being appointed Labour leader on Sunday, Mr Hipkins said he will focus on the country’s cost of living and housing crises. 

M Adern and Mr Hipkins pictured in London's Hyde Park after attending the unveiling of the New Zealand Memorial in 2006

M Adern and Mr Hipkins pictured in London’s Hyde Park after attending the unveiling of the New Zealand Memorial in 2006

Chris Hipkins, who was the unanimous pick of the ruling party’s Labour MPs for the top job, will be officially sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday following the shock shock resignation of Jacinda Ardern.

Mr Hipkins, who has an electoral mountain to climb with Labour trailing in the polls ahead of the October 14 election, said his government would bring ‘clarity’ to the problems confronting New Zealand. 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (left) and new Labour leader Chris Hipkins (right) enter Wellington's Parliament house before the party's MPs unanimously endorsed the change

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (left) and new Labour leader Chris Hipkins (right) enter Wellington’s Parliament house before the party’s MPs unanimously endorsed the change

Although Mr Hipkins said New Zealand was doing well economically compared to other countries in the post-Covid period he acknowledged run-away prices and a housing shortage are burning issues.

‘Many people are hurting right now and I want them to know we are on their side,’ he said. 

Whereas Ms Adern was known for her more focus on progressive social justice concerns, which led to New Zealand adopting a ‘Wellbeing Budget’, Mr Hipkins said he would zero in on the ‘bread and butter issues’.

A top priority would be the chronic housing shortage and high property prices. 

‘You shouldn’t have to be on a six-figure salary to buy a new house,’ Mr Hipkins said.

As he steps up from being minister for police Mr Hipkins also promised to tackle the concerns about crime. 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and new Labour leader Chris Hipkins hug in front the press before Mr Hipkins was installed as the new party leader

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and new Labour leader Chris Hipkins hug in front the press before Mr Hipkins was installed as the new party leader

He also indicated the government would look at paring back what it was doing and indicated some programs were going to be cut. 

‘I know that some New Zealanders feel we are doing too much too fast and I have heard that message,’ he said.

Mr Hipkins paid tribute to Ms Ardern, calling her one of New Zealand’s great prime ministers

‘Jacinda’s leadership has been an inspiration to women and girls everywhere,’ he said.

Mr Hipkins said the formal changeover of national leader would happen on Wednesday, when Ms Ardern would perform her last duties as prime minister before he is sworn into the job. 

Earlier Mr Hipkins told reporters he was ‘humbled and honoured’ to be nominated by his colleagues. 

Ms Adern gave her stamp of approval. 

‘To see the caucus be absolutely united in their support for what will be a fantastic prime minister, I am absolutely delighted,’ she said in endorsing Mr Hipkins.

The self-declared ‘ginger’ because of his strawberry blond hair has handed a daunting electoral task with Labour consistently trailing the opposition National party in polls, with one in December putting the gap at five per cent.

Ms Ardern (pictured right with partner Clarke Gayford after her resignation speech) endorsed Mr Hipkins as her successor

Ms Ardern (pictured right with partner Clarke Gayford after her resignation speech) endorsed Mr Hipkins as her successor

A major issue for Mr Hipkins to face will be the country’s surging inflation, which sits at 7.2 per cent far outstripping wages growth. 

Mr Hipkins who is known for quick and sometime self-depreciating wit will likely set a different tone from Ms Ardern’s brand of ‘compassion’ politics. 

He has a more combative style than Ms Adern, although sometimes his enthusiasm for point-scoring that has led to him overstepping the mark.

His most notable episode for Australians came in 2017, when he used parliament to dig for information on the dual citizenship status of Barnaby Joyce, drawing censures from then-Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop and Ms Ardern in a rare trans-Tasman spat.

Despite this Mr Hipkins was quickly seen by Labour MPs as their best choice to follow Ms Ardern, especially given Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson’s decision to rule himself out of contention.

Mr Hipkins also made jokes about the colour of his hair and said it was about time the country had 'a ginger on top' in his first press conference as Jacinda Ardern's successor

Mr Hipkins also made jokes about the colour of his hair and said it was about time the country had ‘a ginger on top’ in his first press conference as Jacinda Ardern’s successor

The 44-hour process did not allow grassroots Labour members or the Kiwi public a say in picking the prime minister.

Both Mr Hipkins and Ms Ardern argued that was crucial to allow stability for the government. 

In what could be seen a typically Kiwi quirky side Mr Hipkins is known for his enjoyment of sausage rolls and even had a birthday cake made entirely of the pastries.

As interim health minister Mr Hipkins became a prominent face alongside Ms Ardern during the Covid pandemic, where a harsh border policy managed to keep the virus out of the country for a long period of time.

The restrictions polarised Kiwi society and led to a protest movement that was put down with hardline police tactics. 

Mr Hipkins managed New Zealand's Covid-19 response at a time when many Kiwis protested the country's onerous restrictions

Mr Hipkins managed New Zealand’s Covid-19 response at a time when many Kiwis protested the country’s onerous restrictions

His reputation as a ‘fixer’ saw Mr Hipkins move to become police minister as concerns grow about New Zealand’s growing crime problem.

One thing he shares in common with his Australian Labor counterpart Anthony Albanese is that both men often hark back to their humble grassroots working class childhoods.

As with Mr Albanese and the Sydney suburb of Marrickville, Mr Hipkins still represents the hard-scrabble area he grew up in, which is the Upper Hutt northern suburbs of Wellington. 

Who is Chris Hipkins, New Zealand’s next prime minister? 

Chris Hipkins came to prominence as health and Covid-19 minister during New Zealand's response to the pandemic

Chris Hipkins came to prominence as health and Covid-19 minister during New Zealand’s response to the pandemic

Chris Hipkins was the sole nominee for the Labour leadership vacated by Jacinda Ardern and will become New Zealand’s 41st prime minister.

* Born September 5, 1978 in Wellington

* Entered parliament in 2008, alongside Ms Ardern

* MP for Remutaka, in the Upper Hutt, the downtrodden northern suburbs of Wellington where he was raised

* Studied politics and criminology at Victoria University of Wellington, where he was student president

* Staffer to former prime minister Helen Clark

* Spent nine years in opposition, and upon winning government in 2017 was made education minister and Leader of the House by Ms Ardern

* Became health and COVID-19 minister in 2020, taking a prominent role through the pandemic

* Moved to police minister this year as concerns grew over law and order

* Known to Kiwis as a self-depreciating sausage roll enthusiast

* Married wife Jade at the prime minister’s official residence in 2020, with finance minister Grant Robertson as his best man

* Has two children, a six-year-old son a four-year-old daughter

                                                                                                               – Ben McKay, AAP 

 

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