After leading the nation through a series of natural disasters, its worst-ever terrorist attack, and the Covid-19 outbreak, Ardern claimed last week that she no longer had “enough in the tank.”
Hipkins said he was “energised and enthused by the challenges ahead” as he took the oath of office from Governor-General Cindy Kiro in Wellington.
“This is the biggest privilege and responsibility of my life,” he said.
The 44-year-current old’s challenge is to boost the government’s flagging popularity, which has been plagued by a faltering economy and a rising conservative opposition.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ardern made her final public appearance in her capacity as prime minister. As she left the recognisable Beehive parliament building, hundreds of staff members and passersby spontaneously started applauding. One of the first people to congratulate Ardern was Prince William.
“Thank you Jacinda Ardern for your friendship, leadership and support over the years, not least at the time of my grandmother’s death,” he wrote on his official Twitter account.
On Twitter, he described Ardern as a “supporter of the peace train who kept New Zealanders together following the terror attack in Christchurch”.
Following her initial election as prime minister in 2017, Ardern rode the “Jacindamania” wave to a resounding victory in 2020, securing a second term.
But as it struggles to deal with rising inflation, a housing affordability problem, and an impending recession, her center-left government has become more and more ineffective in recent months.
After chairing his first cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Hipkins said it was an “immensely proud moment” for him to take “the baton of responsibility” from Ardern.
He singled out the cost of living as one of his most urgent priorities, but was coy when pressed on other potential policy changes.
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