WELLINGTON: Hundreds gathered to pay an emotional farewell to Jacinda Ardern as she left New Zealand’s parliament to resign as prime minister on Wednesday, before Chris Hipkins was swiftly sworn in as her replacement.
Ardern said last week she no longer had “enough in the tank” after steering the country through natural disasters, its worst-ever terror attack and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hipkins was sworn in by Governor General Cindy Kiro during a ceremony in the capital Wellington, saying he was “energised and excited by the challenges ahead”.
“This is the biggest privilege and responsibility of my life,” he said.
The 44-year-old is now tasked with reversing the government’s sagging popularity, which has been hampered by a deteriorating economy and a resurgent conservative opposition.
Ardern made her last public appearance as prime minister earlier on Wednesday, walking out of the distinctive Beehive parliament building as hundreds of staff and onlookers broke into a spontaneous round of applause. Prince William was among the first to congratulate Ardern.
“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 Twitter.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak thanked Ardern “for her kindness and strong leadership”.
He also said he looked forward to working with Hipkins, adding a joke about the new leader’s self-professed love for sausage rolls.
“Our countries have so much in common, and I hope we get to discuss our shared priorities in person soon — maybe over a British sausage roll?” Sunak tweeted.
Folk singer Yusuf Cat Stevens, who played a concert in memory of the 51 people killed during the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre, also praised Ardern.
On Twitter, he described Ardern as a “supporter of the peace train who kept New Zealanders together following the terror attack in Christchurch”.
Ardern was first elected as prime minister in 2017, before riding a wave of “Jacindamania” to secure a second term with a landslide victory in 2020.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2023