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ABC News

'Humbled and honoured': Chris Hipkins to replace Jacinda Ardern as New Zealand's prime minister

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed he was the only nominee to become New Zealand's next prime minister.

Mr Hipkins replaces Jacinda Ardern, who shocked the nation of 5 million when she resigned from the prime ministership on Thursday, calling an election for October 14.

He confirmed on Saturday that, after nominations closed at 9am, he was the only nominee for the role. 

"It's a big day for a boy from the Hutt," said the current education minister who hails from the Hutt Valley in the Wellington region. 

"… It's an enormous privilege, and also an enormous responsibility and the weight of that responsibility is still sinking in." 

Mr Hipkins said he was "humbled and honoured" by the support he had received from colleagues. 

He highlighted there was still a meeting and vote to come to confirm the role. 

"I'm incredibly optimistic about New Zealand's future," he said. 

"I'm really looking forward to the job. 

"I'm feeling energised and enthusiastic and looking forward to getting into the work."

Mr Hipkins confirmed he would be able to win the next election. 

He said he wouldn't yet answer questions bout his positions or policies. 

Ms Ardern's final day in the PM's chair will be February 7 after five-and-a-half years in the top role.

Mr Hipkins, 44, must still get an endorsement on Sunday from his Labour Party colleagues in Parliament but that is just a formality now. 

The lack of other candidates indicated party members had rallied behind Mr Hipkins to avoid a drawn-out contest and any sign of disunity following Ms Ardern's departure.

Mr Hipkins will have less than eight months in the role before contesting a general election.

Opinion polls have indicated that Labour is trailing the main opponent, the conservative National Party.

Mr Hipkins rose to public prominence during the coronavirus pandemic, when he took on a kind of crisis management role.

But he and other liberals have long been in the shadow of Ms Ardern, who became a global icon of the left and exemplified a new style of leadership.

Just 37 when she became leader, Ms Ardern was praised around the world for her handling of the nation’s worst-ever mass shooting and the early stages of the pandemic.

But she faced mounting political pressures at home and a level of vitriol from some that previous New Zealand leaders hadn't faced.

Fighting back tears, Ms Ardern told reporters on Thursday that she was leaving the role no later than February 7.

“I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple,” she said.


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