Meet the man who will replace Jacinda Ardern as New Zealand’s Prime Minister

Chris Hipkins, who played a significant role in New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, is set to replace Jacinda Ardern as prime minister after emerging on Saturday as the only candidate to lead the ruling Labor Party.

Hipkins, 44, is expected to be confirmed as leader at a meeting of Labour’s 64 lawmakers, or Caucus, on Sunday, succeeding Ardern, who made a surprise announcement on Thursday that she had “no more in mind” to lead the country and would step down.

“I think we’re an incredibly strong team,” Hipkins said at a press conference after the party announced him as the sole candidate.

“We have gone through this process of unity and we will continue to do so. I feel very fortunate to work with such an amazing group of people who have a real commitment to serving the people of New Zealand.”

Hipkins, known as “Chippy”, built a reputation for expertise in tackling Covid-19 and was a troubleshooter for Ardern when other ministers were struggling.

He would not be drawn on his political plans. A cabinet reshuffle proposed by Ardern would go ahead, but he said he planned to keep Grant Robertson as finance minister.

Hipkins said he had spoken to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who tweeted that the two had had “a heated discussion”.

Hipkins was first elected to parliament for the Labor Party in 2008, and became a household name fronting the government’s response to the pandemic. He was appointed Minister of Health in July 2020 before becoming Minister for Covid Response at the end of the year.

He is now Minister for Police, Education and Public Service, as well as Leader of the House.

A Horizon Research snap poll obtained by local media organization Stuff on Friday showed Hipkins was the most popular potential candidate among voters, with support from 26% of those polled.

While Ardern was popular early in her five-year term, her ratings have fallen on a setback to strict Covid curbs, rising living costs and mortgage rates and worries about crime.

He is now Minister for Police, Education and Public Service, as well as Leader of the House.

A Horizon Research snap poll obtained by local media organization Stuff on Friday showed Hipkins was the most popular potential candidate among voters, with support from 26% of those polled.

While Ardern was popular early in her five-year term, her ratings have fallen on a setback to strict Covid curbs, rising living costs and mortgage rates and worries about crime.

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