Chris Hipkins has been chosen to replace Jacinda Ardern as New Zealand’s prime minister – and has been sworn in after her shock resignation last week.
Mr Hipkins, who is fondly known as “Chippy”, received the unanimous support of politicians from the Labour Party after he was the only candidate to enter the race to be its next leader.
He takes on the role after Ms Ardern stepped down as Labour leader and prime minister – saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” to do the job justice.
Mr Hipkins will have less than nine months before contesting a tough general election, with opinion polls indicating his party is trailing its conservative opposition.
Unlike his predecessor, Mr Hipkins is not yet a household name. Here’s everything we know about New Zealand’s new prime minister.
Hipkins and the pandemic
Mr Hipkins, 44, became well-known in New Zealand for fronting the government’s response to the pandemic, regularly appearing in daily televised news conferences.
He was appointed health minister in July 2020 before becoming the COVID response minister at the end of the year, a role he kept until June 2022.
New Zealand’s strict COVID restrictions, which included closing the border and locking the country down when case numbers were low, won the government plaudits in the early days of the virus.
Globally, Ms Ardern received the bulk of the praise. But her successor clearly had a key role leading in her government on the detail.
It’s worth noting that New Zealand’s strict COVID restrictions became less popular as the pandemic wore on.
That partly accounts for the tough polling numbers the Labour Party is now facing in the country, with political opponents blaming the COVID rules for holding back the economy.
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Other roles in parliament
Mr Hipkins has worn many hats since entering parliament in 2008.
He became spokesperson for education in 2013 and has served as minister for education since Labour formed a government in 2017.
He became minister for police in mid-2022 as the country experienced a surge in crime rates, and has also been the minister for public service, as well as leader of the house.
The new Labour leader and prime minister will have to act swiftly to find replacements for his responsibilities as he adjusts to his new roles.
Viral TV gaffe
The incoming PM is known for his sense of humour and poking fun at himself.
When New Zealand was in a nationwide lockdown in August 2021, Mr Hipkins went viral for a gaffe on live TV when he urged people to get outside and “spread their legs” – rather than stretch their legs.
He later appeared at a news conference drinking out of a mug which read “spread your legs, not the virus”.
He is also famed for his love of Coke Zero and sausage rolls, with a sausage roll birthday cake from parliamentary colleagues once making headlines at home and abroad.
Jacinda Ardern’s advice to Chris Hipkins
At Ms Ardern’s final appearance as prime minister, she told reporters the only advice she could offer to her successor was, “You do you.”
“This is for him now. It’s for him to carve out his own space to be his own kind of leader,” Ms Ardern said.
“Actually, there’s no advice I can really impart. I can share information, I can share experiences, but this is now for him.”
What Mr Hipkins has said about his predecessor
Mr Hipkins called Ms Ardern one of New Zealand’s greatest prime ministers and an inspiration to women and girls.
“She gave voice to those often overlooked in times of challenge and purposefully went about doing politics differently,” he said.
But some of the hate Ms Ardern faced during her time in office is a reminder that “we’ve got a way to go to ensure women in leadership receive the same respect as their male counterparts”, he added.
Mr Hipkins’ family life
Speaking at the news conference announcing his appointment, Mr Hipkins said he will keep his family “completely out of the limelight” after seeing the public scrutiny of Ms Ardern’s family.
He said he and his wife had separated a year ago but remained “incredibly close” and were raising their two children together.
Mr Hipkins took extended parental leave after the birth of his second child in 2018, one of the first male cabinet ministers to do so.