New Zealand PM woos voters with minimum wage hike

Mr Chris Hipkins said the minimum wage would rise by 95 US cents (S$1.26) to US$14.22 an hour from April 1. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WELLINGTON – Recently appointed New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins unveiled a higher minimum wage on Wednesday, as he seeks to court voters ahead of a tight October general election.

With New Zealand in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis, Mr Hipkins said the minimum wage would rise by 95 US cents (S$1.26) to US$14.22 an hour from April 1.

It is the first major policy announcement from Mr Hipkins, who was sworn in as prime minister in January after Ms Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation.

“Those on low incomes make impossible trade-offs between food and medical care, dry homes and a pair of shoes,” Mr Hipkins said. “These families need our support now more than ever.”

Mr Hipkins is almost neck and neck with conservative opposition leader Christopher Luxon in opinion polls.

Trying to burnish his own political brand after years in Ms Ardern’s shadow, Mr Hipkins said her government had tried to do “too much too fast”.

He said he wanted to put “the cost of living front and centre” before New Zealand goes to the polls on Oct 14.

The new prime minister also plans to abandon or amend some proposed reforms that had proven controversial.

Work on a merger of national broadcasters TVNZ and Radio New Zealand “will stop entirely”.

“Support for public media needs to be at a lower cost and without such significant structural change,” Mr Hipkins said.

A planned social insurance scheme to help workers who have been made redundant is also “off the table”.

“We will need to see a significant improvement in economic conditions before anything is advanced,” said Mr Hipkins. AFP

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.