Thursday, February 29, 2024

Hipkins vows to help Kiwis doing it tough

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Then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, centre, at the opening of the Salvation Army’s social housing development in Flat Bush in June 2021. Times file photo Wayne Martin

A bombshell was dropped on New Zealand’s political landscape on January 19 when a tearful Jacinda Ardern publicly announced she was stepping down as prime minister and leader of the Labour Party.

She also revealed she intended to leave Parliament in April and that this year’s general election will be held on Saturday, October 14.

Ardern will be replaced as Labour leader and prime minister by Chris Hipkins, with Carmel Sepuloni as his deputy.

Ardern announced her resignation at the Labour Party’s caucus retreat in Napier.

“I have given my absolute all to being prime minister but it has also taken a lot out of me,” she said.

“You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that inevitably come along.

“Having reflected over summer, I know I no longer have that bit extra in the tank to do the job justice. It’s that simple.”

Ardern entered Parliament in 2008, became her party’s leader in 2017, and became prime minister later that year when Labour formed a coalition Government with NZ First.

She was re-elected as prime minister in a landslide victory at the 2020 general election.

Hipkins has served as Minister of Education, Covid-19 Response, the Public Service, Health, and Police.

He and Sepuloni held their first press conference as incoming prime minister and deputy prime minister at the Beehive on Sunday.

Hipkins said the Government he leads will bring a “strong clarity, sense of purpose, and priority to helping New Zealanders through these tough economic times”.

“Our focus will be on the bread-and-butter issues that people care about.

“Some people, many people, are hurting at the moment and I want them to know we are on their side.”

Following Ardern’s announcement, Botany MP and National Party leader Christopher Luxon publicly thanked her for her public service to the country.

He said she’d made a “significant contribution to New Zealand, in what is a difficult and demanding job as prime minister”.

“I would like to thank Ms Ardern for her service to New Zealand.

“Her leadership in the aftermath of the Christchurch terror attacks was simultaneously strong and compassionate, and is something she can be proud of.

“She was also a strong ambassador for New Zealand on the world stage.

“On behalf of the National Party, I wish her and her family all the very best for the future.”
Botany-based Labour List MP Naisi Chen told the Times Ardern has left a “remarkable legacy as prime minister”.

“She navigated New Zealand through crises like the Christchurch terrorist attack and the Covid-19 pandemic, while delivering record-breaking housing construction, health investment and economic growth.

“I’ve personally been honoured to have her support and counsel during my time in Parliament.

“Jacinda’s empathetic and caring brand of politics was not for the cameras. It truly reflects who she is.”

Chen says she’s “delighted” Hipkins will be New Zealand’s next prime minister.

“Labour is confident, united and optimistic for the year ahead.

“New Zealand is facing tough global headwinds but I am confident Chris can lead us through those challenges.”

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