Acting Prime Minister Peters takes reins

By Moana Makapelu Lee

NZ First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has officially taken over as Acting Prime Minister.  For the next six weeks Peters will be in charge of all prime ministerial duties following the birth of Jacinda Ardern’s new baby girl.

It was business as normal for Peters on Thursday after he officially took over as Acting Prime Minister around 6am as Ardern entered Auckland Hospital.  

Peters has stepped into act on behalf of the Prime Minister since her last post Cabinet press conference last Monday.

Now as the official Acting Prime Minister he will continue running the day to day business of government including running Cabinet meetings, answering as PM during question time and attending prime ministerial engagements.

Speaking to media today, Peters says, “I'm taking on all the duties of prime minister and getting on with the job without getting carried away by it all."

He brings to the role a wealth of experience having served 33 years in office.  In 1996 under Jim Bolger Mr Peters served as Deputy Prime Minister.

The Acting Prime Minister gave no formal announcement on his new role, just a written statement to media this morning.

““Earlier this morning my office was advised the Prime Minister was being admitted to hospital in preparation for the birth of her child.   It’s a happy day and on behalf of the coalition government we wish her and Clarke all the very best.”

MPs including Labour's Māori Caucus joined Peters in his well-wishes to  Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford. 

Labour MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti Meka Whaitiri says, "We’re all excited that the Prime Minister’s gone into labour.”

“Of course on behalf of the Māori caucus of the Labour Party we hope everything goes well and like everybody else this is the mokopuna of the nation so we wish her and Clarke really well over these next few hours."

MP for Waiariki Tamati Coffey acknowledged the timing of the birth with the recent passing of Matarae i Ōrehu Kapa Haka exponent Talei Morrison.

 "I guess off the back of the death of Talei Morrison, one of our kapa haka superstars, and today being a day where we are going to have some new life in here, it's just a reminder that actually with death comes life as well.  So it's a beautiful time."

In the event that Peters is unavailable to act Prime Minister or is called overseas it is expected Labour's Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis will step in.