Jacinda Ardern made her final public appearance as prime minister of New Zealand on Tuesday, saying the thing she would miss most was the people because they had been the “joy of the job.”
The final act Ardern took as leader was to join Hipkins and other lawmakers attending celebrations at the Rātana meeting grounds, the home of an Indigenous Maori religious movement. Ardern told reporters she had been friends with Hipkins for nearly 20 years. She said the only real advice she could offer was, “You do you.”
“This is for him now. It is for him to carve out his own space to be his own kind of leader,” Ardern said. “Actually, there is no advice I can really impart. I can share information, I can share experiences, but this is now for him.”
Ardern also addressed the discussion that has been going on since her announcement about the social media attacks she has received, something she has said did not contribute to her decision to step down.
“Whilst there has been a bit of commentary in the aftermath of my departure, I would hate for anyone to view my departure as a negative commentary on New Zealand,” Ardern said. “I have experienced such love, compassion, empathy and kindness when I have been in this job. That has been my predominant experience.”
At the meeting grounds, Ardern was greeted with hugs and songs. She told those attending she would leave the job with a greater love and affection for New Zealand and its people than when she started. “I did not think that was possible,” she said.
Ardern said her colleagues were exceptional people. “I never did this job alone,” she said. “I did it alongside these wonderful servants to New Zealand. And I leave knowing that you are in the best of hands.”
Ardern plans to stay on as a member of Parliament (MP) until April. She said she was prepared for her new, less visible role. “I am ready to be lots of things,” Ardern told reporters. “I am ready to be a backbench MP. I am ready to be a sister and a mom.”