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Troubleshooter Chris Hipkins Faces a Tough Road as New Zealand PM

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Troubleshooter Chris Hipkins Faces a Tough Road as New Zealand PM

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Chris Hipkins, set to turn into New Zealand’s prime minister, constructed a popularity for competence in tackling COVID-19, although he acknowledges some errors in dealing with the pandemic and faces a robust battle to retain energy in an October basic election.

Known as “Chippy”, the former COVID minister is a close ally of Jacinda Ardern, who shocked the nation on Thursday by announcing she was resigning.

Hipkins, 44, expected to succeed Ardern as Labour leader on Sunday after no other candidates emerged, faces a stern test upon taking power, with Labour trailing the opposition in opinion polls and the country expected to fall into recession next quarter before a general election on Oct. 14.

Often brought in by Ardern when other cabinet colleagues were struggling with their portfolios, Hipkins pledged on Saturday to continue her governing style while putting his own stamp on running the country.

“Jacinda provided calm, stable, reassuring leadership, which I hope to continue to do. We are different people though, and I’m sure that people will see that,” Hipkins told a news conference on Saturday after emerging as the only candidate to lead the ruling Labour Party.

First elected to parliament in 2008, Hipkins became a household name fronting the government’s response to the pandemic. He was appointed health minister in July 2020 before becoming the COVID response minister at the end of the year.

Under Ardern’s “go hard, go early” strategy to COVID, the island nation of 5 million was among the many first to shut borders.

The coverage was hailed all over the world for maintaining New Zealanders virus-free by means of the primary half of 2021, however the public bored with the zero-tolerance technique, which included a nationwide lockdown over a single an infection.

Criticism over the strict lockdowns grew as officers struggled to regulate a Delta outbreak from August 2021. Hipkins later mentioned quarantine measures ought to have been scaled again earlier.

‘THE ODD MISTAKE’

“I’ve dealt with some challenging situations over the last five and a half years, the last couple of years particularly,” Hipkins said on Saturday. “And, you know, I’m a human being. I’ll make the odd mistake from time to time. I try and own the mistakes that I make.”

He would not be drawn on his policy plans.

A 1News-Kantar poll released in December had Labour’s support falling to 33% from 40% at the start of 2022. At that rate, Labour could not form a majority even with traditional coalition partner the Green Party at 9%. The opposition National Party has benefited from Labour’s decline.

Hipkins is known around parliament for his sense of humour – including an ability to laugh at himself.

Meaning to tell COVID-cramped New Zealanders once that they should socially distance when they go out to stretch their legs, he mistakenly said “spread your legs”. After the fake pas went viral, he was seen consuming from a mug with the infamous phrase on it.

Hipkins, who grew up within the Hutt Valley north of the capital Wellington, mentioned his “dad and mom got here from comparatively humble beginnings and labored actually onerous to offer a good life” for him and his brother.

“My commitment and politics is to make sure that we provide opportunities for all Kiwis who want to work hard, to be able to work hard and get ahead and provide a better life for themselves and for their families.”

Hipkins grew to become minister for police in mid-2022 amid a crime wave. He can also be minister for schooling and public service, as properly as chief of the House.

Before becoming a member of parliament, he was senior adviser to 2 schooling ministers and served within the workplace of former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

An out of doors fanatic and eager bike owner, Hipkins is understood to commute to the capital Wellington by bicycle from his residence in an adjoining metropolis.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 employees and is printed from a syndicated information company feed)

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