Hipkins, Sepuloni to lead NZ Labour

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has handed over the Labour leadership baton, with a new-look team to lead Labour through to the 2023 election.

On an emotional day in Wellington, Chris Hipkins was confirmed as Labour leader - and soon-to-be prime minister - following a caucus meeting at parliament house.

His deputy will be Carmel Sepuloni, who won partyroom endorsement to take over from Grant Robertson, and who will be the first deputy prime minister of Pacific descent.

It's been a whirlwind four days for Labour, which was rocked by Ms Ardern's bombshell exit notice on Thursday at the party's year-starting retreat in Napier.

Since then, MPs have coalesced support around Mr Hipkins to take over as leader, with the 44-year-old standing without an opponent in the ballot.

"I've been humbled by the support shown by my colleagues, but also really excited by the focus and commitment that I'd seen from them to make this a speedy and seamless transition," Mr Hipkins said.

"We will continue to provide strong, stable and focused leadership that New Zealanders expect from us."

Ms Ardern and Mr Hipkins - longtime friends and political allies - walked side by side on Sunday through the halls of parliament to the meeting in a show of unity.

On entering, they embraced and were met with raucous applause.

Mr Hipkins left the meeting with a new offsider, Ms Sepuloni, the Auckland-based and Taranaki-raised MP who was social development minister under Ms Ardern.

"It is very hard to fathom that a working-class girl from Waitara who turned Westie ... can become the deputy prime minister of New Zealand," Ms Sepuloni said, her eyes welling.

"I want to acknowledge the significance of this for our Pacific community.

"I am proudly Samoan, Tongan and New Zealand European and represent generations of New Zealanders with mixed heritage.

"It is a huge honour and privilege to be offered this role."

Mr Hipkins also spoke for the first time of his separation from wife Jade, and his desire to keep his children out of the spotlight while prime minister.

Kelvin Davis has been retained as Labour deputy leader, and Mr Robertson will remain in his finance portfolio.

Mr Hipkins said Ms Ardern's last act as prime minister will be to attend annual celebrations in Ratana on Tuesday, a particularly significant occasion for Maori.

Mr Hipkins confirmed he would be sworn in on Wednesday morning ahead of his first cabinet meeting later in the day.

He will also spend the week considering a cabinet reshuffle, to be announced the following week.

Prior to her departure, Ms Ardern said she would spend the summer refining Labour's priorities given the tough economic outlook, and paring back government spending.

Mr Hipkins said that exercise would continue, which gives him a chance to reset government priorities ahead of the October 14 election.