Who is Chris Hipkins, who will be New Zealand’s newest Prime Minister?

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Chris Hipkins
Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Chris Hipkins becomes the new Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Hipkins was a senior minister in the Labor government, taking on key portfolios: Education, Health, Covid-19 Response and Policing.

While he said on Friday he was not tapped on the back by outgoing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Hipkins has been known to step in to clean up the mess left by other ministers.

Following the 2017 election, Hipkins became Secretary of Education, where he oversaw sweeping changes, including the abolition of charter schools and the merging of colleges into a single entity.

He was also appointed interim health minister after David Clark resigned ahead of the 2020 election. After the election, Hipkins retained his education portfolio and assumed the position of Minister of Covid-19 Response.

Labor MP and Police Minister Poto Williams


Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

But in June last year, Hipkins was removed as Covid-19 minister and replaced Poto Williams as police minister. Williams had not responded well to issues such as ram raids and gang shootings in Auckland, and Ardern said at the time of the recast that Hipkins’ degree in criminology and interest in the juvenile justice space suited him for the role.

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Most recently, Hipkins served as Secretary of Education, Secretary of Police, Secretary of Public Service, and Leader of the House. He has been a Member of Parliament for Remutaka since the 2008 elections.

Forced apologies

In October 2021, Northland was detained for 11 days after allegedly crossing the border into Auckland with three “sex workers” with possible gang connections.

At the time, as Minister of Response to Covid-19, Hipkins accused them of using false information to cross the border, but it was later revealed, under the Official Information Act, that Hipkins knew at the time that a blunder by officials had been the reason and that the women were not at fault. He has not apologized for the allegations, nor has he corrected reports that these women were “gang-related sex workers”.

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However, he apologized to New Zealand journalist Charlotte Bellis after she took legal action. Hipkins had made false statements about Bellis’ circumstances, including that she ignored consular assistance, and shared her personal information publicly.

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Chris Hipkins apologized to New Zealand journalist Charlotte Bellis for comments made on her MIQ application.
Photo: YouTube screenshot

In a letter to Bellis in March, he apologized for “the errors in my remarks and the inclusion of personal information in the statement and for the subsequent distress it caused her”.

In September 2022, as Secretary of the Public Service, Hipkins apologized in the House to former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Bill English for dragging his family into an exchange over government contracts awarded to the husband of Secretary of State Nanaia Mahuta .

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“I was in no way intending to suggest that the arrangements had anything to do with him [English’s] family was inappropriate; in fact I was trying to illustrate the opposite,” he said.

Become a politician

According to his biography on the Labor Party website, Hipkins attended Waterloo Primary School, Hutt Intermediate and Hutt Valley Memorial College (later known as Petone College) where he was the Head Boy in 1996. He completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Politics and Criminology at Victoria University.

After completing his studies, Hipkins worked in industry training. Before becoming an MP, he also worked in Parliament, first as a senior adviser to two education ministers and later in the office of then Prime Minister Helen Clark.

He entered parliament in 2008 and became spokesperson for education in early 2013.

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