As New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern hands over the reins to new Labor leader Chris Hipkins, an old photograph shows that the historic bond between the pair runs very deep and halfway across the globe.
A photo has surfaced of a youthful Mrs Adern and Mr Hipkins beaming at the camera in London’s Hyde Park 16 years ago.
Greg O’Beirne, a professor of audiology at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, dug up the old shot and posted it on Twitter a day before Hipkins took over from Ms Ardern as leader of the ruling Labor Party.
Chris Hipkins (pictured right) will take over as New Zealand Prime Minister from Jacinda Adern (pictured left) following his approval as Labor leader on Sunday
“16 years ago, two future New Zealand prime ministers were hanging out in Hyde Park, London,” the professor tweeted.
He also informed Twitter user that the original caption read: ‘Former Wellingtonians Jacinda and Chris – the NZ Memorial ceremony seemed to have left them in high spirits’.
The couple attended the unveiling of the New Zealand Memorial in London’s Hyde Park on Remembrance Day 2006.
After being named Labor leader on Sunday, Hipkins said he will focus on the cost of living and housing crises in the country.
M Adern and Mr Hipkins pictured in London’s Hyde Park after attending the 2006 unveiling of the New Zealand Memorial
Chris Hipkins, who was the unanimous choice of the ruling party’s Labor MPs for the top job, will be officially sworn in as Prime Minister on Wednesday following Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation.
Hipkins, who has an electoral mountain to climb with Labor trailing in the polls ahead of the October 14 election, said his government would bring “clarity” to the problems facing New Zealand.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (left) and new Labor leader Chris Hipkins (right) enter Wellington Parliament House before party MPs unanimously approve the change
While Mr Hipkins said New Zealand was doing well economically compared to other countries in the post-Covid period, he acknowledged that runaway prices and a housing shortage are burning issues.
“A lot of people are hurting right now and I want them to know we’re on their side,” he said.
While Ms Adern was known for her increased focus on progressive social justice, which led to New Zealand adopting a ‘welfare budget’, Mr Hipkins said he would focus on the ‘bread and butter issues’.
A top priority would be the chronic housing shortage and high real estate prices.
“You shouldn’t have a six-figure salary to buy a new house,” Mr. Hipkins said.
While stepping down as police minister, Mr Hipkins also vowed to tackle crime concerns.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and new Labor leader Chris Hipkins hug before the press before Mr Hipkins was installed as the new party leader
He also indicated that the government would look at cutting back on what it was doing and indicated that some programs would be cut.
“I know some New Zealanders think we’re doing too much and too fast and I’ve heard that message,” he said.
Mr Hipkins paid tribute to Ms Ardern, calling her one of New Zealand’s greatest prime ministers
“Jacinda’s leadership has been an inspiration to women and girls around the world,” he said.
Mr Hipkins said the formal change of national leader would take place on Wednesday, when Ms Ardern completed her final duties as prime minister before being sworn in.
Earlier, Mr Hipkins told reporters he was “humbled and honored” to be nominated by his peers.
Mrs. Adern gave her stamp of approval.
“To see the caucus absolutely united in their support for what will be a fantastic Prime Minister, I am absolutely delighted,” she said in support of Mr Hipkins.
The self-proclaimed ‘ginger’ for his strawberry blonde hair has taken on a daunting electoral task, with Labor consistently trailing the opposition National party in polls, with one in December estimating the difference at five per cent.
Ms Ardern (pictured right with partner Clarke Gayford after her resignation speech) supported Mr Hipkins as her successor
A major problem for Mr. Hipkins will be the country’s rising inflation rate, which, at 7.2 percent, far exceeds wage growth.
Mr. Hipkins, known for his quick and sometimes self-deprecating wit, is likely to strike a different tone than Ms. Ardern’s brand of “compassionate” politics.
He has a more combative style than Ms. Adern, although his enthusiasm for scoring points has sometimes led him to cross the line.
His most notable episode for Australians came in 2017 when he used parliament to seek information about Barnaby Joyce’s dual citizenship, drawing criticism from then Australian Foreign Secretary Julie Bishop and Ms Ardern in a rare trans-Tasman -fight.
Despite this, Mr Hipkins was soon seen by Labor MPs as their best choice to follow Ms Ardern, especially given Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson’s decision to exclude himself from the fight.
Mr Hipkins also joked about the color of his hair and said it was about time the country got ‘a ginger on top’ at his first press conference as Jacinda Ardern’s successor.
The 44-hour process gave no Labor members or the Kiwi public a say in choosing the prime minister.
Both Mr. Hipkins and Ms. Ardern argued that this was crucial to enabling stability for the government.
In what showed a typically quirky Kiwi side, Mr. Hipkins is known for his sausage roll fun and even had a birthday cake made entirely from the pastry.
As interim health minister, Mr Hipkins became a prominent face alongside Ms Ardern during the Covid pandemic, where strict border policies succeeded in keeping the virus out of the country for a long time.
The restrictions polarized Kiwi society and sparked a protest movement that was crushed with harsh police tactics.
Mr Hipkins led New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 at a time when many kiwis were protesting the country’s heavy restrictions
His reputation as a ‘fixer’ saw Mr Hipkins move up to the office of police minister as concerns over New Zealand’s growing crime problem grew.
One thing he has in common with his Australian Labor colleague Anthony Albanese is that both men often hark back to their humble working-class childhoods.
Like Mr. Albanese and Marrickville, a suburb of Sydney, Mr. Hipkins still represents the hard-scrabble area he grew up in, namely the Upper Hutt. northern suburbs of Wellington.
Labor MPs are expected to elect Carmel Sepuloni, an MP of Tongan descent, as deputy prime minister.
Treasury Secretary Grant Robertson will step down as deputy but keep his portfolio.
Mr. Hipkins will hold a press conference later on Sunday.