Hutt Valley mayors back Chris Hipkins as new Prime Minister of New Zealand


Hutt Valley mayors are excited a local lad has risen through the ranks to the highest political office in the land.

Chris Hipkins, born and bred in the valley, will take over as prime minister on Wednesday following Jacinda Ardern's sudden decision to quit.

"He's been a fantastic local MP," Lower Hutt mayor Campbell Barry told Morning Report on Monday.

"There's a lot of proud people in Upper Hutt," added Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy.

"He'll understand people and he'll understand the mood of the people, and he will relate to people. That's what good people in the Hutt Valley do. That's been his background, and we've seen that in our hardworking MP … he's related to the people and listened to the people. So that will continue, I'm sure."

Guppy has been mayor of Upper Hutt since 2001, and was there to greet 'Chippy' - as he's become known - when he was first elected in 2008.

Hipkins completed his schooling in the Hutt, and has represented much of the region as MP for Remutaka (formerly Rimutaka) since 2008 - increasing his majority from a few hundred that year to more than 20,000 in 2020.

In recent years he has held big roles including health, police, education and the COVID-19 response. But that has not got in the way of being a good local MP, the mayors say.

"I know myself and Wayne have both been able to see the job he's done as a minister, but still being on the ground," Barry said.

"I think we both understand he's got a pretty big task on his hands now, but he is in a really good position to do a good job and he's just incredibly competent and will work really hard. So we're really proud of him and right behind him to do a good job for the whole country."

Hipkins told Morning Report his priorities as prime minister would be refocusing the government's efforts on "bread and butter" issues, particularly inflation and the cost of living.

While wages have been rising, particularly for those earning minimum wage, recent inflation has started to wipe out a lot of those gains.

"I think Chris has a really good understanding of working-class families … that understanding of what families and people are going through at the moment with the cost of living and other challenges that are impacting everyone," Barry said.

"He'll bring his own style and perspective to that prime ministership role and with the cabinet he builds. I think there are some really good opportunities for his upbringing and where he's come from to really reflect on how he leads."

Guppy said this would be an advantage with voters, with Labour struggling in the polls nine months out from the election.

"If people feel that he relates to them and they can talk to him and they feel listened to, that's really important. People will feel that he's one of them, that he hasn't come from some chosen background - he's one of them. That's really important and that will help the Labour Party and the government."

Hipkins and his deputy Carmel Sepuloni - herself a self-described "working class girl from Waitara who turned Westie" - will be formally sworn in on Wednesday.