Incoming Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says economy main focus but can't say what inflation rate is

Labour have opted for the most diverse top four in New Zealand's political history.

Chris Hipkins has been confirmed as Prime Minister. He's picked Pasifika woman Carmel Sepuloni as his deputy PM.

Kelvin Davis stays on as deputy Labour leader and will keep up the Māori representation, while Finance Minister Grant Robertson represents the rainbow community. 

If you've any doubts about the diversity, Hipkins himself sealed the deal on Saturday by suggesting he'll bring a tinge of ginge to the leadership.

Something old, something new, and certainly no sign of anyone blue - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and incoming Prime Minister Chris Hipkins walked into Labour's caucus meeting on Sunday. It's the old guard shepherding in a new era.

They arrived to a raucous caucus whose hands must be stinging from all the applause.

It was a farewell party for a leader they adored, before they ushered the cameras out the door.

"Sorry everyone we've got a bit of business to do," Ardern said. 

Down to business behind closed doors, there was some cheering and song, deciding the country's next Prime Minister and deputy. 

It's Chris Hipkins and Carmel Sepuloni. 

"As Prime Minister, I will lead a team that is focussed and working hard to fix the big issues," said Hipkins.

"[I'm] very humbled. It is very hard to fathom that a working-class girl from Waitara who turned westie, that that person can become deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand. Now I get to back up the boy from the Hutt," said Sepuloni. 

It's a new era for the Labour Party, and they say, New Zealand. 

"I know that some New Zealanders think we are doing too much too fast, I have heard that message," said Hipkins. "Many people are hurting at the moment. I want them to know we are on their side."

He admitted the focus had drifted.

Asked if Labour had forgotten about working families, Hipkins said he didn't think so.

"But I think some of them might feel they are not hearing enough from us about the issues that really matter to them at the moment and that is absolutely where our focus will be."

He also defined his key priority - the economy - as the cost of living crisis. 

"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."

But he couldn't tell Newshub what the rate of inflation is. 

"You've caught me out here. I haven't gone through key numbers. I normally do. But I haven't done that since Christmas. Few other things on the go so I won't engage in your rapid fire of questions."

Ardern as Prime Minister and John Key before her had both ruled out ever raising the superannuation age.

Hipkins wouldn't make that commitment. 

"I'm not making specific commitments on things today. People will accept I haven't actually got to the job of Prime Minister... I'm not making commitments, I'm not making those sorts of specific commitments. I'm not gonna play the ruling in or out game today."

The incoming Prime Minister also drew a line in the sand on his personal life. 

"I will put something on the record that will be my final comment on the matter. Being a politician's partner... being a minister's partner when you're in the public spotlight as I have been, particularly through the COVID-19 response, it's bloody hard.  

"Families come under an enormous amount of pressure. A year ago my wife and I made the decision we would live separately. We would do everything we can to raise our children together, we remain incredibly close. She's still my best friend."

He told Kiwis that while they're used to seeing shots of the Prime Minister's daughter Neve, he saw the impact on that family - so his children are off limits. 

"I want them to grow up with a typical Kiwi kid life, I want them to be able to make mistakes, I want them to be able to learn and grow without five million people looking over their shoulder."

His work whanau - the Labour caucus - is pumped to see him at the top. 

Labour MP Greg O'Connor even went as far as to say: "I suppose some people, it might be a little bit colloquial, would say, the Queen is dead, long live the King."

Stoked it was a clean contest, the other leadership contender, Michael Wood, said no horse-trading was done. 

"Deals and people asking for things, that shouldn't come into it. It should come down to the best person. Chris Hipkins is the best person. He has my support for that reason."

Hipkins said he is "so proud of my team". 

"It has been the best leadership change I have ever seen in any party."

It's a team feeling confident Hipkins can come out on top of October's Chris-off election.

"I think Luxon's in for a ginger crunch," said Labour's Kieran McAnulty. 

So as one leader leaves, a new show begins - Chris and Carmel.

Asked how that sounds as a leadership team, Hipkins said: "It's pretty good". 

Jenna Lynch Analysis

Chris Hipkins and Carmel Sepuloni are relatable - a westie and a boy from the Hutt.

Judging by his first official spin at the prime ministerial podium, Hipkins chats like your average Kiwi - to your average Kiwi. 

Hipkins has correctly identified the number one issue for voters, staking a claim on cost of living. That's why he's kept Grant Robertson on in Finance for stability. He couldn't stay as deputy - you can't have two Wellington white guys at the top in 2023. 

The new leader had a little whoops on flubbing the inflation rate, but at least he was honest about it. He owns his misgivings. 

He promised a policy reset, to scrap the superfluous. Hipkins is more centrist than Jacinda Ardern and isn't afraid to get out the axe to get the centre swing voters back.

While Hipkins won't have Ardern’s stardust, he can do something she can’t - he is the everyman. 

He genuinely loves DIY, a pint at the pub, can crack a joke and goes out in public in trackpants. Some of the public will find that refreshing.

He has a way of connecting with working families in a way Ardern couldn't - so stardust or not, Prime Minister Hipkins may just be exactly the reset the Labour Government and Labour party needed.