Video and transcript: Labour leader Chris Hipkins' full party conference speech

  • 18/05/2024

Labour leader Chris Hipkins has delivered a speech at the party's regional conference in Auckland.

The former Prime Minister said his party would be "considered, thoughtful and clear about the policies we take" to the 2026 election.

Watch the full speech above or read it below:

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā iwi, e rau rangatira ma. 

Tena koutou tēnā koutou tēnā koutou katoa. 

Mālō e lelei

Kia Orana

Talofa Lava

Fakaalofa lahi atu,

Mālō Ni

Ni sa bula.


As-salamu alaykum

Ni hao

Warm pacific greetings to you all.

I want to acknowledge our Labour Party president Jill Day, our general secretary Rob Salmond, members of the New Zealand Council, our local MPs and other parliamentary colleagues, and of course, you our members and activists.

I particularly want to acknowledge and thank you, our Labour members who do the hard graft behind the scenes. From door knocking to writing detailed policy proposals, you all do so much for our party.

None of our MPs would be where they are today without the Labour Party, so thank you for everything you do.

To be blunt - it's been a shambolic start to the Parliamentary term. This Coalition Government is taking Aotearoa backwards at such an alarming rate it's quite honestly hard to keep up sometimes.

New Zealanders voted for change last year, but I don't think what Kiwis are getting is what they thought they voted for. There is no thought and no care in the decisions this Government is making. But above all - there is no vision.

No vision for a society that takes climate change seriously. No vision for doing right by Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi. And certainly no vision for a future focused on reducing inequality so everyone can succeed.

Earlier in the year I spoke about my values and why they are Labour values. Today I will set out my vision for Aotearoa New Zealand and why Labour is the party to take us there.

In 2040 Aotearoa New Zealand will celebrate 200 years of the Treaty of Waitangi. When that was pointed out earlier this week, I wondered how a person who has done so much to take Māori backwards could seriously stand in front of the country and claim he was looking forward to that date with pride. 

The decisions we take now will shape not just the nature of those celebrations, but the nature and shape of the society we will have become. If we cast our minds forward a decade and a half and think about what we want our country to look like we can see that better is not only possible, it is worth fighting for.

In 2040 I want to see the moment we are in now as a turning point.

A time when we decided that this isn't as good as it gets, that we didn't have to accept growing inequality, environmental degradation, run down public services, and ever lower standards of living as inevitable, we can, and we will have, done something to change that.

In 2040 the New Zealand economy will be strong and resilient.

We will have tech companies leading the world in our digital future. Our businesses designing and selling high-value products and services. Innovators adding value to our primary products and selling them to a hungry world. Strong trade deals that benefit exporters while protecting our borders and our IP. Digital nomads calling New Zealand home while using the international time difference to work productively and remotely.

In 2040 Labour will have made sure that hard work pays.

After mass layoffs by the 2023 National Government, it was Labour that got New Zealand working again.

Lower income New Zealanders will be getting ahead because the minimum wage has been adjusted each year by the higher of inflation or the labour cost index.

But few Kiwis remain on the minimum wage for long anyway, as reintroduced fair pay agreements ended the race to the bottom.

Reform of the law around contractors has stopped companies side-stepping their obligations to pay people fairly and the result is a steadily improving quality of life for middle-income Kiwi families.

Childcare costs have dramatically reduced, allowing more women to enter the workforce, and the Government has taken action to ensure that women aren't penalised when they take maternity leave through things like Kiwisaver top-ups.

In 2040 there are homes for everyone who needs them.

Labour Government investment in affordable rental housing has stabilised rents and as incomes have grown, the proportion of a family's weekly income going on accommodation costs has fallen.

Mega landlords are paying their fair share of tax.

A sustained boom in house construction has seen increasing numbers of Kiwis able to realise their dream of owning their own home, while a decade and a half of housing and other infrastructure investment has created apprenticeship and other on-job training opportunities for a whole new generation of tradies.

In 2040 we will be celebrating careers in the trades.

Kids leaving school no longer view the trades as a second choice but as the desirable, lucrative career options they are. The reforms of vocational education in the early 2020s transformed the nature of work-based or polytechnic based learning. As a result more Kiwi workers have gained more qualifications and are earning more in well paid jobs as a result.

With higher incomes and lower housing costs everyone's quality of life has been steadily improving, but there is even more to celebrate.

In 2040 Labour will have made sure getting around is cheaper and easier.

In our three biggest cities, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, significant investment in mass rapid transit and more active walking and cycling options have made it easier than ever to get around.

In our regional towns and cities more bus services are being provided than ever before. More people using mass rapid transit has eased congestion on the roads, making it faster and cheaper for businesses to transport their goods to market, helping keep the cost of living down.

More kids are riding their bikes or walking to school than ever before. Investment in better cycleways and footpaths has given parents the confidence to let their children roam much more freely because they know it's safe.

In 2040 all of our communities are safer.

They are safer because for the past decade and a half the whole community has been focused on tackling the causes of crime rather than just punishing offenders after it happens.

Young offenders and their families get practical support to break the cycle of offending.

Parents of children in trouble are offered extra support like free drivers licencing, training for employment, drug and alcohol addiction treatment, and mental health support.

A focus on improving prisoner rehabilitation, improving education and training, and better reintegration after the end of a sentence, has resulted in much lower reoffending rates.

Fewer people committing crimes has helped to clear the backlog in our court system, resulting in cases getting to trial much faster thereby freeing up police time to get back out on the beat and keep the community safe.

In 2040 Labour has sparked a love of learning.

Kids are in a hurry to get to school, because schools have been transformed. Teaching and learning has been re-focused to bring out the best in every child, rather than stuffing things into them.

Schools and teachers have been empowered to reject the 20th century factory model of schooling for one that focusses on 21st century skills like problem solving, creativity, teamwork, adaptability and resilience alongside core basics like reading, writing and maths.

Practical life skills like home budgeting, how to prepare a healthy meal, and how to look after your own health have also been taught in schools, leaving kids better prepared for life beyond the school gate.

Technology is a core part of the education system and the result has been higher achievement and more young people leaving school ready to take on 21st century jobs than ever before.

And there are jobs a plenty. Business in New Zealand is booming as our Kiwi innovators have played to our natural strengths to create huge opportunity for the whole community. New Zealand is now the world-leader in sustainable food production, and our produce is sought after around the world and fetches record prices. We are world leaders in renewable energy, sustainable manufacturing, biotechnology, and space exploration.

In 2040 we're healthier and living longer.

A decade and a half of a prevention first approach to healthcare means the whole community is in better shape.

The rates of tobacco smoking in New Zealand are the lowest in the world after Labour reinstates an ambitious Smokefree agenda.

More primary healthcare delivered by pharmacists, more accessible GPs and nurses, free prescriptions and a better focus on illness prevention in schools and workplaces has freed up the whole health system. It now provides better, more consistent care to those who really need it.

The number of people arriving in hospital emergency departments with avoidable illnesses has plunged. Poverty-related illnesses have dropped markedly as policies such as changing indexation on benefits, the Child Poverty Reduction Act and a focus on supporting families with practical support like winter energy costs have had time to embed and are lifting children out of poverty.

In 2040 we are finally living up to "clean and green."

Our environment is steadily improving. We have driven down our climate emissions, cleaned up our lakes and waterways, protected native forests, and we have all played our part in reducing the amount of waste going to landfills. 

All our electricity is now generated sustainably and fossil fuels have been phased out.

After reaching crisis point under National, our infrastructure is steadily improving after a decade and a half of sustained Labour Government-led investment. Road maintenance is up to date and wear and tear is quickly repaired. More freight is transported by rail because it is efficient and cost-effective, and a new world-class interisland ferry service has reduced double-handling and travel times.

Our water pipes have been fixed and every Kiwi can now drink water from the tap. Sewage no longer overflows when it rains heavily, and we can swim in more and more of our lakes and rivers every summer.

The vehicles on our roads are the most sustainable in the world, with the last fossil fuel powered cars now making their way to museums.

In 2040 we will be proud of who we are.

As we gather at Waitangi in 2040 to celebrate 200 years of the Treaty, we will reflect on how far we have come in bringing all people of Aotearoa New Zealand together.

By-Māori-for-Māori solutions are being delivered, addressing the challenges faced by our tangata whenua.

The successes of Māori education and health providers has influenced non-Māori and more holistic approaches are leading to spectacular results.

As the Treaty settlement process concluded, Māori businesses really began to thrive. Some of our largest exporters are now Māori-owned, and they create jobs and prosperity for Māori and non-Māori alike.

All Kiwi kids learn the basics of Te Reo Māori in school and increasing numbers of adults have embraced the opportunity to learn too.

Aotearoa New Zealand has embraced multi-culturalism. Our pacific population is more prosperous than ever before, and our leadership on international issues like climate change has made us the most trusted and valued international partner for pacific nations.

Our migrant communities feel valued and included in our society, they feel safe, and they enjoy the benefits that flow from their hard work.

We are a safer, more prosperous, and more equal country. Nobody's opportunities in life are limited by the circumstances of their birth. Our community rallies around and supports one another and we feel more connected to each other as a result.

Our democracy is thriving, with high turnout at general elections because Kiwis can see the difference their vote can make.

New Zealand in 2040 can be all these things if we work for it.

This doesn't need to be a dream. If we make the right choices now, this can be our reality.

I'm not saying that every idea I've mentioned in this speech is locked in as Labour policy.

We've got a lot of work to do to develop them further, and make sure that the manifesto we do put forward at the next election is realistic, achievable, and affordable.

Now is the time for creative thinking, new ideas, and a bold vision for the future.

New Zealand voted for change so we need to change too. We didn't get everything right and we need to learn from our experiences in Government over the past six years so we can be even better next time.

There is so much water to flow under the bridge before the next election.

We need to be considered, thoughtful and clear about the policies we take to the polls.

We must be open to new ideas - and this means not locking ourselves into policy positions now, when we need time to hear other perspectives, fresh ideas and to carefully consider what New Zealanders want from their future.

By 2026 New Zealanders will have had three years of a coalition of chaos taking the country backwards.

They will want stability, decency and inclusiveness. They will also want well-paid meaningful work, a roof over their heads and the chance to get ahead.

That is what we as the Labour Party will offer.

Our Labour team in Parliament will offer New Zealanders a genuine vision for the future at the next election, and a real choice.

We will use this time in opposition to ensure we are better prepared for Government than ever before.

New Zealand in 2040 can be a vibrant and prosperous country, where everyone has a role to play, and nobody gets left behind.

Labour is ready and willing to lead us there.