Estimated reading time 3 minutes 3 Min

New Zealand’s Ardern bids emotional farewell on last day as prime minister

Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday bid an emotional farewell on her last day as prime minister, speaking of the kindness and empathy New Zealanders have shown her, but said she was ready to be a sister and a mother.

New Zealand Election Jacinda Ardern became NZ's youngest prime minister since 1856 when she won office in 2017.
January 24, 2023
By Lucy Craymer
24 January 2023

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday
bid an emotional farewell on her last day as prime minister,
speaking of the kindness and empathy New Zealanders have shown
her, but said she was ready to be a sister and a mother.

Days after stunning the world by announcing she had “no more
in the tank” to lead the country and would step down, the
42-year-old arrived at a gathering of politicians and Maori
elders in the small town of Ratana, north of the capital
Wellington, and was instantly surrounded by supporters seeking
photographs.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the greatest
privilege of my life,” Ardern told the gathering in a speech.

She will resign on Wednesday and be replaced by the new
Labour party leader, Chris Hipkins.

Ardern, along with Hipkins and opposition politicians, were
making an annual visit to Ratana, where a weeklong celebration
is held for the birth of Maori prophet Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana.

Wearing a black dress with her shoulders covered in a
traditional Maori cloak, called korowai, she led members of her
party onto the community grounds as a brass band played. The
speeches and accompanying songs and dances that followed saw
elders speak with humour and warmth about Ardern.

“Thanks so much for teaching us to love quickly,” one elder
told Ardern.

Ardern responded, saying she that hadn’t planned to speak
but that those there refused to give her an out.

“My overall experience in this job of New Zealand and New
Zealanders in this job has been one of love, empathy and
kindness,” she said.

The left-leaning global icon gained attention for bringing
her baby to a United Nations meeting and wearing a hijab after a
massacre targeting Muslims. Although she became a target for
hate and online abuse by right-wing extremists on social media,
she said she was leaving the job with love in her heart.

“I want you to know I leave with a greater love and
affection for Aotearoa New Zealand and its people than when I
started.”

Before heading onto the grounds, Ardern faced the media for
possibly the last time as prime minister, smiling broadly as
declining to answer political questions, saying they were now
the responsibility of her successor.

“I am ready to be lots of things. I’m ready to be a back
bench MP (member of parliament). I’m ready to be a sister and a
mum,” she said.

Her daughter Neve is 4 years old and starts school in June.
(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; editing by Praveen Menon and Gerry
Doyle)

More in Top Stories