‘Machinery of government expert’ becomes New Zealand PM

By on 23/01/2023 | Updated on 24/01/2023
A picture of the The_Beehive Executive Wing of New Zealand Parliament Buildings
A picture of the The Beehive Executive Wing of New Zealand Parliament Buildings Nick-D/Wikipedia reproduced under Creative Commons

Incoming New Zealand prime minister Chris Hipkins has said that the government is currently doing “too much too fast” and has pledged an increased focus on tackling inflation in his first comments since it was announced he would replace Jacinda Ardern.

Hipkins, a self-described “machinery of government expert” after his time in government, was the only nominee to come forward to replace Ardern, who announced her resignation last week, saying she no longer has “enough in the tank” for the role ahead of elections later this year.

In interviews after it was confirmed he would take on the role ahead of his swearing in on Wednesday, Hipkins said that he would review the New Zealand government programme with the aim of cutting back some reforms.

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“The public feel we’re doing too much, too fast,” he said, in a series of early-morning radio interviews and reported by the Guardian. “We need to focus in on some of those bread-and-butter issues that New Zealanders are certainly focused on at the moment, including issues like the cost of living, the effects of the ongoing global inflation pandemic that we’re experiencing at the moment.”

“We just have to make sure that we’re putting our resources into the things that are going to make the biggest difference and that are the most important.”

Hipkins (right) takes on the top role in government following a number of ministerial roles, including as education minister, minister for the public service, and the minister for the COVID-19 response.

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Speaking to the Guardian in 2021, Hipkins said that he believed that these roles had helped him develop one of his political strengths, which was “understanding how the machinery of government operates”.

He said this was “something that I’ve developed over about 20 years”, adding: “I’ve watched people come into politics from outside, very talented people, very knowledgable, with a lot of subject matter expertise – but they’ve struggled to get the machinery of government to do what they wanted to do. And I like to think that I’ve managed to – I’m not perfect – but that I’ve managed to kind of figure that out.”

Hipkins faces a number of challenges in his role, both political and policy related. New Zealand’s inflation rate stands at 7.2%, while the ruling Labour Party faces an election on 14 October.

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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