Chris Hipkins confirmed as New Zealand leader, picks deputy

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Chris Hipkins was confirmed Sunday as New Zealand’s next prime minister and he chose Carmel Sepuloni as his deputy, marking the first time a

person with Pacific Island heritage has risen to that rank. Hipkins got the unanimous support of lawmakers from his Labour Party after he was the only candidate to enter

the contest to replace Jacinda Ardern, who shocked the nation Thursday when she announced she was resigning after more than five years as leader. Hipkins will be

officially sworn in to his new role on Wednesday. He will have less than nine months before contesting a tough general election, with opinion polls indicating his party is

trailing its conservative opposition. The lack of other candidates for leader indicated that party lawmakers had rallied behind Hipkins to avoid a drawn-out contest and

any sign of disunity following Ardern’s departure. In setting out his priorities, Hipkins said he knew many families were struggling due to the “pandemic of inflation” and

that the economy would be central to his government’s thinking. When asked if he would take on the same transformational approach to government that Ardern had promised

after first winning the top job, Hipkins indicated he wanted to get back to basics. “We will deliver a very solid government that is focused on the bread-and-butter issues

that matter to New Zealanders, and that are relevant to the times that we are in now,” Hipkins said. “2017 was five-and-a-half years ago, and quite a lot has happened since then.”