New Zealand’s Labor Party has unanimously confirmed Education Secretary Chris Hipkins as party leader, succeeding current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Hipkins was the only candidate for the leadership position, so Sunday’s confirmation was largely a formality.
Speaking at a press conference in Wellington following the decision, Hipkins said: “Earlier today the Labor caucus, the Labor team of MPs, unanimously endorsed me as their new leader and as New Zealand’s next Prime Minister.”
“I would like to pay tribute to the outgoing Prime Minister, my very good friend Jacinda Ardern. She was one of New Zealand’s great Prime Ministers,” added Hipkins.
Ardern said in a surprise announcement last Thursday that she was stepping down from the country’s top position, citing exhaustion.
She has yet to formally step down as prime minister to New Zealand’s governor-general – a step needed to make the decision official.
At a press conference on Thursday, Ardern said her term would end on February 7, when she expects a new Labor prime minister to be sworn in – although “sooner depending on the process”.
Hipkins said he expects to be sworn in on Wednesday.
A career politician, entering Parliament in 2008, Hipkins became a household name while leading New Zealand’s pandemic management as Minister for Covid-19 Response in Ardern’s Cabinet. In addition to being Secretary of Education, he is Secretary of Police and Civil Service and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Speaking to reporters after the nominations closed Saturday morning, Hipkins pledged to lead the country “strong, stable and united” but warned there are challenges ahead.
“I recognize that we are going through some economic turbulence at the moment and we need to navigate through it,” he said.
Hipkins also told reporters he was “incredibly optimistic about New Zealand’s future” and was “really looking forward to the job. I feel energetic and enthusiastic.”