Prime Minister Chris Hipkins grilled by children on naughty behaviour, climate change, favourite food

  • 21/03/2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has revealed he was twice sent to the principal's office for naughty behaviour while at school - but he's been unable to recall exactly what he did.

Hipkins was at his old primary school, Waterloo School in Lower Hutt, on Tuesday morning to meet with children and teachers. 

After speaking at an assembly, Hipkins asked the children whether they had any questions for him. Immediately, a large number of arms shot up into the air.

"Oh my goodness," the Prime Minister said.

He pointed to one child, who asked: "What's your favourite colour?"

"I have to say red, because all of the media are watching," Hipkins replied, an obvious reference to the colour of his Labour party.

The next question was what is the most challenging part of his job?

"That's actually quite a hard question because every day is a bit challenging," Hipkins said.

"I think probably the most challenging part is that you never quite know what you're gonna have to do in the day. So you wake up in the morning with a plan of these are the things that I'm going to do in the day and it never quite works out that way. 

"Something always comes up during the day that means that what you started the day trying to do and what you end the day actually doing are often quite different. That means you always have to be reinventing through the day."

In response to another question, he said being Prime Minister is "great fun".

"It's an amazing opportunity. I never ever would have imagined when I was here at Waterloo School that this is something that I would be doing. So it's a huge privilege."

The next question received a lot of laughs - whether he had been naughty while at school?

"That's a revealing question," Hipkins said.

Hipkins explained that in his day at the school, if you were naughty you'd be sent to the principal's office.

"I remember being sent to his office twice for being naughty," he said.

So what was the naughtiest thing he's done, the next child asked. 

"When I said I had been sent there twice, the funny thing is I can remember the experience of being sent to the principal's office but I can't actually remember what it was for on either occasion so it can't have been that bad hopefully."

The children were also curious about what classrooms Hipkins was in, what other schools he had attended, his favourite food (it's pasta), as well as his favourite subject.

"I remember studying in 1988 about the Olympics and we learned all about the Olympics. That was my favourite thing that I could remember learning about when I was here."

He also explained how he became the Prime Minister and that not spending enough time with his own family is his least favourite part of the job. 

One young girl asked: "What are you going to do about climate change?"

"That is a really good question. Thank you," Hipkins said.

The Prime Minister asked the children what they believed the most important thing was to combat climate change.

Not littering and reducing plastic use were the first two suggestions.

"Reduce our emissions," a third child said.

Hipkin said the number one thing to do to combat climate change was to reduce emissions, which he explained meant "not putting as much gas into the environment as we have been".

He told the children he is 44 years old and he couldn't think of what his favourite car is. 

Does he own a mansion?

"No, I don't own a mansion, although the Prime Minister does get to live in a big house in town. It's called Premier House. That's where the Prime Minister gets to stay, although I don't stay there very often because I live in Upper Hutt.

One child asked what was the biggest obstacle he has ever overcome.

Hipkins said that was a tough question.

"There was definitely parts of my schooling I found really hard. I had to keep trying at some parts of schooling. I have never been really good at maths, which we are now establishing on a daily basis."