Hipkins to be PM again in 'constitutional quirk'

Chris Hipkins (left) and Christopher Luxon. Photo: NZ Herald
Chris Hipkins (left) and Christopher Luxon. Photo: NZ Herald
Labour leader Chris Hipkins will be sworn in again as Prime Minister on Saturday without a formal ceremony, as government coalition talks continue between the National Party, Act and New Zealand First.

Current ministers were due to leave office at 11.59pm tomorrow. 

However, because a new government has not been formed - with negotiations continuing with the parties - and vote recounts mean the “writ” had yet to be returned, it’s been decided to roll over the current caretaker arrangements for a bit longer, Hipkins said today.

“Following consultation with (Prime Minister-designate) Christopher Luxon, I have written to the Governor-General to advise her to reappoint the current ministry to operate in caretaker mode until the new Government is appointed.”

Ministers will continue in their existing portfolios, except for Nanaia Mahuta, who will leave office on Saturday as she has not been re-elected. 

Hipkins will be reappointed on Saturday afternoon.

Grant Robertson will be appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control.

Willie Jackson will take over Nanaia Mahuta’s delegations as Associate Minister for Māori Development.

“This solution to a constitutional quirk has been amicably agreed and we continue to consult closely with the incoming government on all key decisions,” Hipkins said.

Meanwhile,  Labour’s Rachel Boyack has held the seat of Nelson after a recount, beating National’s Blair Cameron by just 26 votes.

Rachel Boyack. Photo: supplied
Rachel Boyack. Photo: supplied
Boyack held a 29-vote margin after the final votes were delivered on Friday last week, prompting National to request a recount given the slim margin.

She first won the seat in 2020 and was “delighted” to have been confirmed as MP again. 

“It is the privilege of my life to be the MP for Nelson and I’m looking forward to continuing my work as a strong advocate for the Nelson region.”

She acknowledged Cameron, who ran a “strong campaign”.

She said Labour would be a “formidable Opposition”. Her local focus included public transport, the Nelson Hospital upgrade, housing and significant economic development projects.

The recount was one of three requested - the most of any general election since the advent of MMP.

The Māori seat of Tāmaki Makaurau has the smallest margin, with Te Pāti Māori’s Takutai Tarsh Kemp leading Labour incumbent Peeni Henare by just four votes. The seat has been held by Henare since 2014, although in the event he falls short he will return to Parliament on the party list.

The typically impenetrable red fortress of Mt Albert is one of the more shocking results of the election; National’s Melissa Lee is trailing Labour’s Helen White by just 20 votes.

The last three MPs for Mt Albert were Labour leaders Helen Clark, David Shearer and Dame Jacinda Ardern, who held a 21,000-vote majority in 2020. It has never been held by National.

Both of those recounts are due to begin on Monday. After the final votes were delivered, chief electoral officer Karl Le Quesne said recounts would generally take up to three days but for larger electorates, such as Tāmaki Makaurau, they could take as long as eight days.

Otago University Professor Andrew Geddis previously told The New Zealand Herald most elections saw one recount, but three was “out of the box”.

The job isn’t quite as simple as emptying the boxes and starting from scratch. Geddis said the recount has two elements: a literal recount of the votes and a closer look at disallowed votes.

All ballots have to be checked against the electoral roll to ensure voters haven’t voted twice, are enrolled, and have voted in the right electorate. Even the voter’s mark on the voting paper can be called into question.

“A call has to be made as to whether the voter’s intent is obvious. If you can tell, you count the vote. If you can’t, it’s disregarded. Recounts always result in some change because of human error. But the change is usually less than 20 votes, give or take.”

The recounts are separate to other issues the Electoral Commission is reviewing following the election, including 15 voting places with “data entry errors” and that an entire ballot box from the East Coast was missed.

This review was sparked after a Herald investigation highlighting the issue.