21 Jan 2023

Chris Hipkins: From Head Boy to Prime Minister

10:21 am on 21 January 2023
Labour Party MP Chris Hipkins

Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Chris "Chippy" Hipkins is set to become New Zealand's Prime Minister, following an announcement from the Labour Party this morning.

Here's a look back at his career in politics, and rise to the top job.

1978 - Christopher John Hipkins is born in the Hutt Valley. He attends Waterloo Primary School, Hutt Intermediate and was Head Boy at Hutt Valley Memorial College (later called Petone College) in 1996. Hipkins received his Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in politics and criminology from Victoria University of Wellington.

After completing university, Hipkins worked for the Industry Training Federation and Todd Energy. He also worked in Parliament as an advisor to Trevor Mallard and Helen Clark.

2008 - Hipkins enters parliament, standing in the Remutaka seat following the retirement of MP Paul Swain. He was appointed Labour spokesperson for Internal Affairs and became the Chief Whip following the 2011 general election. He also held the State Services and Associate Education spokesperson roles.

Labour MP Chris Hipkins

Labour MP Chris Hipkins in 2017. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

2017 - Hipkins is elected as a Cabinet Minister by the Labour Party caucus and became Minister for Education.

During this time, he supported the abolition of National Standards and charter schools and signalled a review of the National Certificate of Educational Acheivement (NCEA) system.

In 2019, Hipkins proposed merging the country's polytechnics into a single entity - a move criticised by many including the National Party.

2020 - David Clark resigns as Health Minister and Hipkins is appointed Interim Health Minister.

In November 2020, Hipkins was Minister of Education, Minister for the Public Service and Covid-19 Response Minister.

In August 2021, Hipkins set Twitter alight with a blooper at a media briefing while trying to encourage people to take some exercise.

In December 2021, Hipkins took time out of his summer holiday break to front a Covid-19 news conference to discuss the border-related Omicron case, a DJ from the UK, who went out in the Auckland community. He held the conference in a nature reserve in Raumati. His mum apologised on his behalf to waiting media as Hipkins was nearly half an hour late to the conference. His walk down a hill in a nature reserve caused a social media stir and became the subject of many memes.

Chris Hipkins emerges from the forest for the press conference in Raumati.

Chris Hipkins strolls down a hill in Raumati to attend a press conference. Photo: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

Chris Hipkins hugging his children after a Covid-19 press conference in Raumati.

And hugging his children afterwards. Photo: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

2022 - In defence of the country's MIQ system, Hipkins publicly shared personal information of New Zealand journalist Charlotte Bellis, and said she had ignored consular assistance. However, following legal action taken by Bellis, Hipkins apologised for releasing personal information and making inaccurate statements.

In June 2022, Hipkins was moved from being Covid-19 Response Minister and picked up the Police Minister portfolio from Poto Williams. Williams had "lost focus" and had not handled issues like ram raids and Auckland's gang shootings well, the government said.

In September 2022, Hipkins issued an apology in the House to former Finance minister Bill English for suggesting he had granted family members government contracts. He made those remarks following remarks made about Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta's husband Gannin Ormsby being awarded government contracts.

2023 - Following Jacinda Ardern's resignation announcement, Hipkins quickly became the front-runner to take over as prime minister, although he said he had not been shoulder-tapped by Ardern.

"I think we will have a good, constructive discussion, we will select a new leader that the party will then unite behind. Leadership contests don't have to be like the Hunger Games as the National Party seem to have perfected the art of. It is actually possible to do it differently and that's what we'll be striving to do," he said on Thursday.

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