Prince William and Kate thank Jacinda Ardern for 'friendship and leadership' as new PM takes over

Jacinda Ardern's last day as PM - Reuters
Jacinda Ardern's last day as PM - Reuters

New Zealand officially has a new Prime Minister, with Jacinda Ardern spending her final day in the office before handing over to Chris Hipkins.

Mr Hipkins, 44, was sworn in as New Zealand's 41st prime minister at a ceremony officiated by the country's Governor-General Cindy Kiro. Ms Kiro, who represents King Charles, earlier accepted Ms Ardern's official resignation.

Prince William and wife, Kate, thanked Ms Ardern on Twitter:

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They wrote: "For your friendship, leadership and support over the years, not least at the time of my grandmother's death. Sending you, Clarke and Neve our best wishes. W&C."

Clarke Gayford is Ms Ardern's fiancé and Neve is their four-year-old daughter.

Mr Hipkins will have less than nine months before contesting a tough general election, with opinion polls indicating his Labour Party is trailing its conservative opposition.

He has promised a "back to basics" approach.

"This is the biggest privilege and responsibility of my life," Mr Hipkins said at the ceremony. "I'm energised and excited by the challenges that lie ahead."

Chris Hipkins at the ceremony - Reuters
Chris Hipkins at the ceremony - Reuters

Carmel Sepuloni was also sworn in as deputy prime minister, the first time a person with Pacific Island heritage has taken on the role. She congratulated Mr Hipkins and thanked him for the trust he'd placed in her.

Ms Ardern said last week that she was resigning after more than five years in the role because she no longer had "enough in the tank" to do the job justice. "It's that simple," she said.

On Tuesday, she made her final official appearance as prime minister, saying the thing she would miss most was the people because they had been the "joy of the job".

On Wednesday morning, she was greeted with hugs and farewells by dozens of former staff and admirers on Parliament's forecourt as she left the building.

Well-wishers hugged Ms Ardern - Reuters
Well-wishers hugged Ms Ardern - Reuters

After the ceremony, the new PM said to reporters: "It feels pretty real now."

Mr Hipkins is known to many by the nickname "Chippy," which fits with his upbeat demeanor and skills as an amateur handyman.

He served as education and police minister under Ms Ardern. He rose to public prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic, when he took on a kind of crisis management role. But he and other liberals have long been in the shadow of Ms Ardern, who became a global icon of the left and exemplified a new style of leadership.