Chris Hipkins and his partner Toni Grace have revealed they first met more than a decade ago when she was an intern in the Remutaka MP’s office.
Hipkins first revealed Grace during his concession speech on election night earlier this month.
“There is someone else special that I want to thank tonight, someone that most of you won’t know, and that is my partner Toni,” he told Labour Party faithful.
“Being Prime Minister is not the only special thing that has happened for me this year and I want to thank you for being with me every step of the way over the last few months as we have gone through this campaign.”
In an interview with The Post, the pair have now disclosed they first met 13 years ago.
“I thought I’ll pick my local MP to get a bit of a bit of work experience,” Grace said.
She said they “got along really well” and became “good friends” before their lives took different paths.
However, they reconnected earlier this year.
“And it was kind of like although there had been about 10 years since we’d last seen each other, it felt like it was just yesterday,” Hipkins told The Post.
After Hipkins gave the special dedication to Grace on election night, many New Zealanders immediately fired up Google to find out more about her.
Google Trends showed a clear spike for searches of “Tony” and “Toni” after Hipkins’ speech.
Earlier this year, after Hipkins took over as Prime Minister following Jacinda Ardern’s resignation, Hipkins revealed he had separated from his wife – asking the media and the public to afford his family privacy.
“A year ago, my wife and I made the decision that we would live separately, that we would do everything we can to raise our children together,” Hipkins said at the time.
“We remain incredibly close, she’s still my best friend but we have made that decision in the best interest of our family.
“I know that putting my name forward to be a minister, to be an MP, to be the Prime Minister, I make myself public property. I absolutely accept that, but my family aren’t and I ask that people do respect that.”
Labour suffered a brutal defeat in the election and looks likely to lose dozens of seats in Parliament. After the 2020 election, the Ardern-led party won a historic 65 seats; the preliminary results of the 2023 election show they look set to retain only 34.