Hipkins takes office in New Zealand focused on economy

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (HPD) — Chris Hipkins took office Wednesday as New Zealand’s 41st prime minister after the unexpected resignation of his predecessor, Jacinda Ardern, last week.

Hipkins, 44, has promised a back-to-basics approach, focused on the economy and what he described as the “inflation pandemic.”

In less than nine months, the new president will face a difficult general election in which, according to polls, his Labor Party will be behind the conservative opposition.

The country’s new Governor General, Cindy Kiro, officiated the brief inauguration ceremony in the presence of her friends and colleagues after having accepted Ardern’s resignation earlier.

“This is the greatest privilege and responsibility of my life,” Hipkins said during the ceremony. “I have energy and I am excited for the challenges that await me.”

Carmel Sepuloni was also sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister. It is the first time that a person of Pacific Islander ancestry has held that position.

Hipkins served as Minister of Education and Police during Ardern’s tenure. He gained popularity during the coronavirus pandemic, when he took over part of the crisis management. But he and other liberals have long been in the shadow of Ardern, who became a global icon of the left and an example of a new style of leadership.

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