Monday 20th of March 2023

applauded around the world .....

Jacinda Ardern who has led New Zealand with intelligence, kindness and humanity is leaving the stage. Her last day as Prime Minister will be February 7.

This will be very sad news for those who have admired her leadership, her ability to think on her feet, her intelligence, and above all her kindness, compassion and warmth.


BY Max Hayton


There will be a measure of relief on the opposition benches in Parliament. They have found Ardern to be an extraordinarily effective opponent. They have found it difficult to coordinate a challenge.

Despite the dithering, the Opposition’s polling has improved. This year’s election, to be held on October 14 will be closely fought.

Ardern’s leadership through difficult times has been applauded around the world but her term, which began in October 2017 and is entering its sixth year, has been disrupted by a series of external challenges.

From the beginning the government’s policies focussed on housing, child poverty and climate change, and progress was made on all of these. However the government had to cope with the massive intervention of several unfortunate external factors that all but derailed the plans for a better New Zealand. These challenges included terrorism, the international pandemic and international inflation.

Ardern’s leadership and compassion were on full view after an Australian attacked with guns two mosques in Christchurch. Within days her government tightened the gun laws to ban semi-automatic weapons.

The world Covid pandemic attacked every sector of society, including the health system, physical and mental health, the economy, education and of course the ability of the government to reach its broader policy objectives.

Despite this, Ardern’s government launched an early and effective set of policies that reportedly saved thousands of lives and maintained economic viability.

The policy was based on the view that a strong health response would produce a positive economic outcome, and despite its detractors, the plan was successful.

The policy is credited with saving thousands of lives and, as New Zealand enters a difficult election year the economy is in relatively good shape compared with comparable economies. Unemployment is low and a predicted recession is expected to be shallow.

New Zealand’s Government debt is also low at just over 31 percent of GNP and dropping.

However inflation, another unwelcome intruder from beyond the borders, has raised inflation to around seven percent. It is these economic issues that have helped to push public support towards the Opposition in this election year.

Ardern’s government hasn’t shied away from difficult challenges. A start has been made on meeting the Carbon Neutral target “Net Zero by 2050” including the world’s first plan for farmers to reduce agricultural emissions. From 2025 farmers would pay levies for emissions including methane from cows. New Zealand has pledged to cut methane emissions by ten percent by 2030 on its way to net zero emissions by 2050. About half the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from farms. New Zealand is one of the few countries to have a net zero emissions by 2050 goal enshrined in law, its Zero Carbon Act.

One of the most intractable problems, child poverty, was one for which Ardern took personal responsibility. It is due to her drive and focus that the government has successfully turned around child poverty statistics.

Other achievements include significant increases in welfare benefits, and a major increase in state housing stock.

Ardern negotiated relations with China with carefully nuanced diplomacy, balancing issues of human rights, trade and economics to build on the long standing relationship.

Ardern’s legacy after fewer than six years is immense. She has raised New Zealand’s standing in the world, and while the opposition has twisted the truth about her government’s policies, Ardern and her team have maintained discipline and kept cool, carried on and shown humanity and humility.

In announcing her resignation she said “I am not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case I probably would have departed two months into the job!

“I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also, when you are not.

“I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple.”

She says she hopes she leaves behind “a belief that you can be kind, but strong. Empathetic, but decisive. Optimistic, but focused. That you can be your own kind of leader – one that knows when it’s time to go.”

On Sunday January 22 the Labour Party Caucus will take the first step towards finding a successor.

There is already speculation Ardern will find a role on the international stage where she could continue to do some good in the world.








easy fix....

By Max Hayton


It took less than 48 hours from Thursday until Saturday morning for New Zealanders to learn who their new Prime Minister would be. There was none of the dithering, back stabbing and delays evident in some other democracies when changing leaders.

After Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern resigned there was just one nomination, Chris Hipkins, 44, known to some as “Chippy”. He represents an electorate in the Hutt Valley near Wellington, a suburb where he grew up and was head boy at secondary school.

In government he has been regarded as a safe pair of hands, taking over portfolios where previous ministers have been less than outstanding.

Since 2017 Hipkins has been Minister of EducationMinister for the Public Service and Leader of the House. As a “fixer” he was given additional responsibility as Minister of Health and Minister for COVID-19 Response during the COVID-19 pandemic. Later he was made Minister of Police during a spate of ram-raids.

Hipkins has been on a steep learning curve resulting from awkward moments after some unwise public statements. He apologised to a journalist Charlotte Bellis for releasing private information about her circumstances. Bellis had encountered problems returning to New Zealand under the Managed Isolation and Quarantine system during the pandemic.

Hipkins also apologised to former Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English for suggesting he had favoured his brothers with government contracts.

He famously caused laughter around the world during a Covid news conference. He meant to say New Zealanders should take some recreation by stretching their legs. Instead he said they should spread their legs.

MPs who have worked with him say Hipkins is practical and gets things done. The Deputy Speaker Greg O’Connor said Hipkins is tough, intelligent, experienced and empathetic.

Hipkins is regarded as more pragmatic than Ardern. As a result he may have greater appeal to the middle ground, undecided voters and younger voters. He promised his government will be strong, stable and focussed.

Hipkins has announced his deputy PM is Carmel Sepuloni. She is Minister for Social Development and Employment, the Minister for Disability issues and the Accident Corporation Commission, and the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.

Sepuloni grew up in the small town of Waitara. Her father was a Samoan/Tongan and her mother is European from a conservative sheep farming family.

Ardern said she had no more in the tank for the exertions of election year or the following three years of leadership which she expected would result from victory at the polls.

She did not mention that she had to withstand abuse, sexism, misogyny and threats, and that this experience might have contributed to her decision. Others have spoken about it at length.

The former Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008) Helen Clark said in a statement “the pressures on Prime Ministers are always great, but in this era of social media, clickbait, and 24/7 media cycles, Jacinda has faced a level of hatred and vitriol which in my experience is unprecedented in our country.”

“Our society could now usefully reflect on whether it wants to continue to tolerate the excessive polarisation which is making politics an increasingly unattractive calling.”

The Disinformation Project Director Kate Hannah studies online hate speech and disinformation. She said that in the last two years the misogyny and violence directed towards Ardern has become more dangerous, more violent, more vulgar, more crude and repetitive. The number of threats against Ardern have almost tripled in the past three years, and some of the threats have been directed at Ardern’s young daughter Neve.

Helen Clark said Ardern delivered on “a large social policy agenda aimed at rebuilding opportunity and fairness, presiding over an economy which has performed better than most of its peers in challenging global circumstances, and positioning New Zealand as a country which stands for international co-operation and decent values.”

Tributes have flowed in from around the world. The actor Sam Neil said he was not surprised that she resigned, “nor do I blame her. Her treatment, the pile on, in the last few months has been disgraceful and embarrassing. All the bullies, the misogynists, the aggrieved. She deserved so much better. A great leader.”

In a tweet the (former) US President Barack Obama said “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has guided New Zealand through crises and seized opportunities by leading with foresight, integrity and empathy. Her country is better off because of her remarkable leadership, and the rest of us are too.”

When she announced her resignation, Ardern said the election will be held on October 14. Hipkins has until then to hit his stride and lift Labour’s polls if he is to lead his party to a third three year term