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Ben McKay

Hipkins, Sepuloni to lead NZ Labour

Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins are preparing for the transition of power in New Zealand. (Ben McKay/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has handed over the Labour leadership to Chris Hipkins in an emotional caucus meeting in Wellington.

The pair - longtime friends and political allies - walked side by side through the halls of parliament house on Sunday in a show of unity.

Mr Hipkins was the sole nominee from Labour's caucus to succeed Ms Ardern as leader after her bombshell announcement on Thursday that she was standing down as prime minister due to exhaustion.

On entering the meeting, the pair embraced and were met with raucous applause.

Mr Hipkins, the 44-year-old education minister, will address media at 3pm and is expected to be sworn in as prime minister early next week.

Labour will be led by a new duo, with Carmel Sepuloni winning a party room vote to become Mr Hipkins' deputy prime minister.

Ms Sepuloni wouldn't confirm her election after the meeting but told journalists she was "feeling very humbled".

Labour MP Jenny Salesa let the cat out of the bag shortly after the meeting, congratulating her colleague on Twitter.

"Well done & really proud of our first Pacific Deputy PM, my friend & Tongan sister Hon Carmel Sepuloni," she wrote.

"Today is a historic day for Samoa, Tonga & our Pacific People in Aotearoa NZ. You've got this Carmel ... 'Ofa lahi & Alofa tele atu Sis"

Ms Sepuloni, a Taranaki-raised Auckland-based MP is a former teacher with Samoan and Tongan heritage through her mother.

Kelvin Davis has been retained as deputy Labour leader.

The new leadership team will take Labour to an election on October 14.

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