On Wednesday, Chris Hipkins was sworn into office in Wellington, New Zealand in front of Governor General Cindy Kiro, who is King Charles’ representative as the country’s head of state. Carmel Sepuloni has also been sworn in as the deputy prime minister and has become the first Pacific Islander to hold the position.
After the ceremony, Chris Hipkins said: “This is the biggest privilege and responsibility of my life.
“I’m energised and excited by the challenges ahead.”
Mr Hipkins is well-known among New Zealanders for his competence in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, during which he came up with the country’s strategy in handling the virus.
In the past, Mr Hipkins said: “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.”
The now-former prime minister Jacinda Ardern made her last public appearance as New Zealand’s leader outside of parliament, where members of the public broke into applause as she left.
She was first elected as prime minister in 2017 and secured a second term in 2020, but the Labour government has continued to struggle in the polls over the last two years.
A 1News-Kantar poll from December 2022 showed that support for the Labour party was just 33 percent, and that Ms Ardern’s personal popularity had fallen to 29 percent.
Last week, Ms Ardern said she had “no more in the tank” to be New Zealand’s Prime Minster, and said she was feeling a “range of emotions” over the resignation, from sadness to a “sense of relief”.
The resignation comes as New Zealand will hold a General Election in October, and the country is facing a cost of living crisis as well as concerns over the economy and crime rates.
New Zealanders have appeared to have had a mixed reaction to Ms Ardern’s resignation, as one local woman Liliana Lozano told the BBC she would miss the leader’s “kindness and her ability to relate to others”.
However, one other woman, Tina Watson, who lives in South Africa, has said she believes Ms Ardern’s response to the Covid 19 pandemic was “too harsh”.
She said: “I have three children [in New Zealand], six grandchildren – two of whom I’ve never met. She drew me apart from them. I’m glad she resigned.”
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The new Prime Minister Mr Hipkins is a father-of-two who goes by the nickname “Chippy” and describes himself as a “regular, ordinary Kiwi” from a working-class background.
He enjoys cycling to work and sausage rolls and even received a sausage roll cake for his birthday.
On the Beehive website, which is the common name for New Zealand’s parliament house, it says Mr Hipkins also enjoys mountain biking and swimming.
On the site, he is also described as someone who “passionately believes that every New Zealander deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential in life.”