Chris Hipkins will be New Zealand’s next Prime Minister, as he was the only nomination for the Labour leadership today.
The Police and Education Minister was able to convince his colleagues he had enough party support to take over the top job, making him an automatic selection to replace Jacinda Ardern, who earlier this week announced she will step down and will not seek re-election.
Today’s announcement should allow Hipkins to be sworn in as new PM ahead of a busy few weeks in politics, including Labour’s pilgrimage to Rātana, and Waitangi Day commemorations.
Hipkins is Police Minister and Education Minister and became well known to many New Zealanders through his role as Covid-19 Minister.
Minister of Finance and current Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson congratulated Hipkins on securing the nomination, in an Instagram post that shows the two Labour MPs close friendship.
“My mate Chippy has been there through thick and thin. He is experienced and deeply grounded in Labour values. When I think of him, one of the first things that pops into my mind is that he is an amazing Dad,” Robertson wrote. “His care and love for his kids is something I so admire.He is going to be a great Leader and PM. Still a bit of our process to go, but very proud of our Labour team!”
The Green Party has welcomed the appointment of Hipkins as the next Labour leader and Aotearoa New Zealand PM.
“Together in Government, the Greens and Labour have made good progress to address some of the key challenges facing Aotearoa. But we know there is a lot of work to do.”In the months and years ahead, we look forward to working with the next Prime Minister to deliver Green Party priorities to end poverty, take bold climate action, and protect our native wildlife,” said Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson in a statement.
“I have known Chris Hipkins for many years and have worked with him as part of two multi-party governments. What I have seen in that time is someone dedicated to making Aotearoa a better, fairer place,” Greens co-leader James Shaw added.
“Over the last five years, Chris has taken on some of the toughest jobs in government and delivered some important changes. Chris will make an excellent Prime Minister and we look forward to continuing our work together, for the rest of this term and the next,” Shaw added.
Hipkins’ dad’s ‘mixed feelings’ about appointment
Hipkins’ father Doug has commented on his son’s nomination, describing it as a “pretty hectic” morning for his family.
He also said he has “mixed feelings” about the news that is son is set to become Prime Minister.
Speaking to Newshub, Hipkins’ father said his son “worked hard and is going to make a very good job of being Prime Minister”. However, he is concerned about his son and the level of vitriol he could receive in his new position.
“When you see what happened to Jacinda and the comments made about her, and what she had to put up with, you can’t help but get a bit disillusioned with politics I am afraid,” he told Newshub.
“We are quite proud of him but we are also proud of his brother. Both boys have grown up to be role models for the younger generation and we are very proud of that more than anything.”
‘We still don’t have a Māori prime minister’
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer congratulated Hipkins but said it was disappointing not to see any tangata whenua contenders for the top jobs.
”Māori have supported Labour for 100 years. Now they have the largest Māori caucus ever, and we still don’t have a Māori prime minister,” Ngarewa-Packer said.
“Chris [Hipkins] is a good appointment, he is solid, and we will be holding him to account on how he delivers for Māori. He needs to be bold, to not back down from the important kaupapa.”
Ngarewa-Packer said Hipkins as prime minister would not change their approach to who they could work with after this year’s election.
”Our approach is still the same. We will work with those who show a commitment towards a Tiriti-centric Aotearoa.”
Ngarewa-Packer said they were also disappointed to see Kiri Allan rule herself out of the deputy role, but they were encouraged by the prospect of Carmel Sepuloni stepping up.
Sepuloni has been Minister of Social Development the past five years, steadily reforming the system including raising benefit levels and adopting a less punitive approach to sanctions.
”Carmel is an excellent wāhine. She is a hard worker and will be a strong representative for the large Pasifika whānau.”
“But we still expect her to be bold, to address all of the welfare reforms needed, because they have not been transformative, not done enough to address homelessness and poverty, which disproportionately affects Māori and Pasifika,” the Te Pāti Māori co-leader added.
Hipkins was ‘Labour’s only option’ - Winston Peters
NZ First leader Winston Peters said Hipkins was Labour’s “only option”.
”Everything has turned to disaster for them since 2020,” the NZ First leader said.
Peters had earlier ruled-out working with Labour, citing the He Puapua report which Labour kept secret from NZ First when they were in Government.
He said this position has not changed despite Ardern’s resignation, previously stating that “they don’t get to lie to me twice”.
The position had still not changed with Hipkins as leader. ”The Government kept secret major policy decisions, and Hipkins was one of those in the know.”
Kiwis react to Hipkins announcement
New Zealanders took to social media to express their thoughts on the announcement, many congratulating Hipkins, while others wondered whether he has what it takes to lead the country - and the Labour Party - ahead of the next election in October.
Hipkins, 44, must still get an endorsement on Sunday from his Labour Party colleagues in Parliament but that is just a formality now.
He will have less than eight months in the role before contesting a general election in October.
Shortly after the announcement, Grant Robertson released a statement explaining why he had decided not to throw his hat in the ring.
Robertson said working alongside Ardern had been “hugely fulfulling” and has given him the chance to “understand up close just what the job of being PM entails”.
“It is a huge role, one that is all consuming, more so than any other Ministerial role in this regard,” he wrote on social media.
He said it was not a role he had a desire to do, at this point in his life.
“I really appreciateI value integrity highly. The idea I would put myself forward for something when I was not able to offer what the role requires was simply not tenable to me. I really appreciate the comments from those who want me to do the role, but I actually think it would be selfish and wrong to do so when I feel this way,” Robertson added.
Parliament is not set to return until February 14.