22 Jan 2023

Labour leadership: Hipkins and Sepuloni to rein in projects that 'aren't essential right now'

7:28 pm on 22 January 2023
At mtg with Jacinda Ardern day after election

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Incoming prime minister Chris Hipkins and new deputy PM Carmel Sepuloni are promising to rein in some government programs that are less "essential", after quickly establishing their new leadership team.

The Labour Party held a brief caucus meeting this afternoon to unanimously confirm Hipkins as the new party leader and prime minister, with Hipkins confirming today that he intends to appoint Sepuloni as the new deputy prime minister.

Sepuloni - the MP for Kelston in West Auckland - is the first deputy prime minister of Pasifika descent.

Hipkins will be officially sworn in on Wednesday and will hold his first cabinet meeting and press conference as PM later that day. He said today he expects to make an announcement on a cabinet reshuffle next week.

Watch today's media conference here:

Hipkins also said cabinet would be making decisions in the coming week on reining in some programs and projects that "aren't essential right now".

"It is still a Labour government. New Zealanders voted very strongly for a labour government at the last election and that is what we are going to continue to deliver."

But he said there was still a need for reprioritisation.

"We're in a very different position now to what we were in when we campaigned in 2020. Then we were right in the middle of a global pandemic, now we are dealing with the economic aftermath of that. And so that is where our focus really needs to be."

Kelvin Davis remains the deputy leader of the Labour party, with Grant Robertson stepping down from the deputy PM role while retaining the finance portfolio.

Hipkins and Sepuloni will take the party into this year's general election, which will be held on 14 October.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Hipkins said Sepuloni was an "outstanding minister".

"During her time as a minister she's overseen the administration of the wage subsidy scheme that ensured many kiwi business were able to stay afloat during the global pandemic, while also ensuring that our welfare system treats people with respect and with dignity.

Hipkins said today he was "incredibly proud" of the current Labour government's efforts.

"I'm proud to have this opportunity to lead a team that's been forged through fire."

But he also acknowledged that he was taking on the job at a challenging time for New Zealanders.

"Despite the comparatively strong position we're in now, compared with many other countries, the tail of the pandemic remains with us.

"Our economic management however has left us with record low unemployment, comparatively low levels of government debt and we're returning to surplus faster than the previous government did after the global financial crisis. But I know that many people in New Zealand, many families, are struggling at the moment. I know that people are worried about paying their grocery bills and paying their mortgages.

"As a team we are ready to crack into it and I intend to hit the ground running."

Hipkins will be New Zealand's 41st prime minister after Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that she would be stepping down.

The incoming prime minister thanked Ardern for her service today, saying she provided inspirational leadership through a quick succession of the biggest challenges New Zealand has faced.

"She gave voice to those often overlooked in times of challenge and purposefully went about doing politics differently."

Read more:

  • Live: Chris Hipkins to become New Zealand's 41st prime minister
  • Carmel Sepuloni: New Zealand’s new Deputy Prime Minister
  • Jacinda Ardern's burnout highlights the pressure world leaders face
  • 'An Upper Hutt boy gets to be Prime Minister'