Chris Hipkins will be New Zealand’s next Prime Minister, with Carmel Sepuloni serving as his deputy, Marc Daalder reports
The Government will have a renewed focus on the “bread and butter issues” like cost of living and the economy, Chris Hipkins said on Sunday after Labour Party MPs confirmed he will replace Jacinda Ardern as their leader and the country’s new prime minister.
Speaking to media after in his first press conference since the caucus meeting, Hipkins said he would be sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday, with the Rātana celebrations on Tuesday serving as Jacinda Ardern’s final public event before the change.
He added that Carmel Sepuloni will take on the role of deputy prime minister, previously held by Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Further announcements on a reshuffle of Cabinet ministers will come next week, he said.
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Kelvin Davis will hold onto his position as Labour’s deputy leader.
Over the next couple of days, Hipkins plans to meet with ministers to discuss their priorities for the year.
“I know that some New Zealanders feel that we are doing too much too fast,” he said.
“I’ve heard that message and over the coming week Cabinet will be making decisions on reining in some programmes and projects that aren’t essential right now.”
Instead, the Government will focus “on middle and low income New Zealanders and the small businesses who are doing it tough to get by. We’ll be making decisions on refocusing on some of the most pressing priorities and also getting some new work underway on policies that will make a real difference to Kiwis over the longer term.”
Hipkins wouldn’t get into policy specifics, only saying that the economy would be his main focus and climate change remained one of the Government’s most pressing concerns.
Asked whether house prices should come down, he replied, “I’m certainly not saying that”.
“We’re certainly not going to be doing things that aim to bring house prices down,” he later promised.
He was unable to name all three articles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
MPs looked upbeat on Sunday morning as they gathered at Parliament to choose their next leader.
After Ardern’s shock resignation on Thursday, the caucus met on Sunday to consider the sole bid received for the top job, that of Police Minister Hipkins.
MPs making their way into Parliament said they were unified behind Hipkins, suggesting Sunday’s vote was more of a formality. Michael Wood, seen as Hipkins’ prime rival for the top job, said he thought the new leader was the “best person” for the role.
Sepuloni said on her way into the caucus room that it was up to caucus to decide the next deputy.
“We’ve just got a meeting that’s about to occur where some decisions will be made and I certainly wouldn’t want to preempt anything,” she said.
“The whole way along, I haven’t ruled anything in or out. There’s a process that needs to be undertaken and we need to respect the caucus members and those decisions need to be made.”
Aupito William Sio, who followed after Sepuloni, said it was a decision for caucus but that a Pasifika deputy prime minister would be a momentous occasion.
“It’s historic. Dreams and aspirations of many of our parents and grandparents would be validated – their dreams of coming here to this nation and making it their home. It’s a beautiful thing,” he said.
“I don’t think any one of them had ever dreamed that one of their sons and daughters or grandsons or daughters would become the leader of this nation.”
In addition to a bit of optimism for the cameras, unity was the theme of the day.
“Absolutely united,” MP Ingrid Leary said of the party.
Naisi Chen: “Amazing unity”.
Jo Luxton: “Unified”.
“We are united behind the new leader,” Tangi Utikere added.