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Jacinda Ardern’s lasting legacy as a trailblazing leader

Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation from politics.

Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation from politics. Photo: Getty

Jacinda Ardern shocked the world when she tearfully announced her resignation as New Zealand’s Prime Minister.

“I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice,” she said on Thursday, announcing she would stand down no later than February 7. 

“I would be doing a disservice to continue.”

Ms Ardern said she would be departing politics with regrets, but she wants to be remembered as someone who always “tried to be kind”.

Here are the high points and low points of her time in office.

Youngest head of government since 1856

She joined the New Zealand Labour Party at age 18 and was elected as a list MP (an MP from a party list rather than a constituency) in 2008.

In 2017, Ms Ardern won a by-election in Mt Albert to become an MP, and just a month later she became deputy leader of the Labour Party.  

When Andrew Little resigned that same year, she was elected as leader of the Labour Party and opposition leader.

At the October 2017 federal election, Ms Ardern became the country’s Prime Minister, aged 37, and became the youngest woman to lead New Zealand. 

Motherhood

In January 2018, just months after Ms Ardern was sworn in, she announced she and her partner Clarke Gayford were expecting a child.

Neve Te Aroh was born in June 2018, making Ms Ardern the second world leader to give birth while in office.

In September 2018, Ms Ardern became the first female head of government to attend a United Nations General Assembly meeting with her infant present.

Speaking to the BBC last year when she was in the UK for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, she spoke about how she sought advice about leadership and motherhood from Her Majesty.

Pictured is Jacinda Ardern with her daughter, Neve

Jacinda Ardern gave birth just months after being elected New Zealand’s Prime Minister.

“I said to her [the Queen], ‘How did you manage?’ and I remember she just said, ‘Well, you just get on with it’.”

Ms Ardern remarked that was the “best and most factual advice” she could have.

Christchurch attacks

In March 2019, a gunman carried out a terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The mass shooting left 51 people dead and a further 40 people were injured. Following the attack, Ms Ardern refused to name the Australian man who carried out the attacks.

“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety, and that is why you will never hear me mention his name,” she said.

“He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.”

Following the attack, Ms Ardern’s leadership was recognised around the world. She wore a hijab when meeting members of New Zealand’s Muslim community while the country mourned.

Pictured is Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern was praised for her leadership following the Christchurch terrorist attacks.

Gun law reforms, and more tragedy

Just days after the attacks, New Zealand passed sweeping gun law reforms.

“That attack exposed weaknesses in legislation which we have the power to fix. We would not be a responsible government if we didn’t address them,” she said.

In December 2019, New Zealand was rocked by another tragedy, when 22 people died and several more were injured when the Whakaari/White Island volcano erupted.

Like she did after the Christchurch attack, Ms Ardern met and embraced first responders following the eruption.

She was once again praised for her actions.

COVID-19 response

When the pandemic took hold, Ms Ardern was quick to impose strong measures that led to borders closing and a nationwide lockdown in late March 2020.

A second nationwide lockdown was announced in 2021.

With Ms Ardern at the helm, New Zealand made great strides in keeping COVID-19 out of the country.

Eventually, with new variants popping up and vaccines becoming available, the country abandoned its zero-tolerance policy.

Throughout the pandemic, Ms Ardern addressed the public at press conferences and also on her social media.

The Opposition criticised the government’s tough stance against COVID-19.

Second election win

In 2020, Ms Ardern led her party to another election victory, securing herself another term.

The Labour Party won an outright majority with just over 49 per cent of the vote.

However, the Labour Party now trails the conservative opposition in the polls, with an election set for October.

Voters are unhappy with the high cost of living, rising interest rates and are worried about crime, polls show.

The Labour Party will elect a new leader later this month.

nz euthanasia referendum

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern claims victory for Labour in the October 2017 election.

MP’s brutal allegations

In August, Labour MP Gaurav Sharma was expelled from the Labour caucus.

His expulsion came after he made allegations about bullying within the party. He said Ms Ardern did not have “credibility” as a leader.

“There is no credibility… this is about the credibility of a nation’s Prime Minister, who every step of the way has been lying,” he said.

Ms Ardern previously refuted allegations of bullying within the Labour Party, saying she had not seen any instance of it.

Female leaders team up

When Ms Ardern met Finland’s Sanna Marin, people questioned whether the two were only meeting because they were young, female leaders.

In Auckland, Ms Marin said the two were meeting simply because they were leaders.

“We, of course, have a higher proportion of men in politics – it’s reality – because two women meet, it is not simply because of their gender,” Ms Ardern said in December.

Pictured is Ardern and Sanna Marin

Sanna Marin and Jacinda Ardern said they met because they’re world leaders, not because they’re both female politicians.

Charity win after vulgar gaffe

In December, Ms Ardern was caught calling her political rival David Seymour an “arrogant prick” in parliament.

“I’m absolutely shocked and astonished at her use of language,” Mr Seymour told the Associated Press.

“It’s very out of character for Jacinda, and I’ve personally known her for 11 years.”

Ms Ardern did not dispute the comment.

Instead the two teamed up, each signing the official parliamentary transcript with the colourful comment and auctioned it for charity.

“A faux pas with the old mic in parliament has turned into $100,100 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation,” Ms Ardern said on Facebook.

“My thanks to David for being a good sport and to everyone who placed a bid.”

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