Jacinda Ardern’s legacy has divided readers. While many described New Zealand’s outgoing prime minister as “inspirational” and praised her ability to manage the crisis, some responses also revealed anger at her handling of the Covid response and criticism for failing to deliver on promises.
Below is a selection of reader comments that convey a range of reactions when we posed the question: how will you remember Jacinda Ardern’s time as Prime Minister of New Zealand.
The Christchurch shootings and the White Island disaster / Wakaari
When it comes to her response to the Christchurch mosque shootings and the White Island/Wakaari volcano disaster, Ardern, whose last official engagement is on Tuesday, has been seen by many as a “crisis leader” and much admired.
“She has done an outstanding job as prime minister.” She will be remembered as a crisis leader – volcanic eruption, global pandemic, terrorist attack… She united us as a “team of five million”. She brought us together and led the country through one crisis after another.” Michal Chudzinski-Pavlovski, Auckland.
“The defining moment has to be the way she handled the terrorist attack in Christchurch … She’s definitely up there with the best leaders ever to rise to the top of the premiership.” Stephen Matich, Melbourne
On Covid, many have welcomed the tough approach that saw New Zealand impose tough restrictions and close its borders in the early years of the pandemic.
“Many thousands of people are alive and well today because of her and her government’s handling of the Covid pandemic.” Eileen Bovell, Hamilton.
“She saved thousands of lives during Covid when others could have cost us.” Michelle Bissenden, Dunedin.
However, others were merciless for their hardline stance. One reader, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote: “I missed out on hugging my mother before she died suddenly in early 2021 due to Covid restrictions. That’s how much New Zealanders are costing her draconian lockdown and management [quarantine system] MIK was unreasonable and violated our human rights.”
Esther Pocock, from Swedensaid Ardern “presided over a policy of rare cruelty and created divisions among Kiwis to maintain her power”.
“She illegally locked around a million Kiwis out of their home country during one of the worst pandemics in living memory, leaving us to fend for ourselves and forcibly separating us from our families, and locked the rest of the country inside.”
Some readers were critical of Ardern’s wider domestic policy record.
“The promise of more affordable housing has not been fulfilled; poverty among the poorest has not improved. There has been little progress in reform, so her legacy will not be well remembered.” Nick Gibson, New Zealand.
“She saved all her beauty for the world stage. . . . She made many promises and set many goals and failed to fulfill any of them.” Mike Oneill, New Zealand.
Mike Richards, Hamilton, New Zealand, said Ardern “divided the nation”.
“She promised to prioritize child poverty, but her policies have made people poorer and created a major cost of living crisis… Her Covid policies have kept children out of school for almost a year and now we have a crime crisis.” She has run the most incompetent government we have ever had, able to spend millions on committees and reports but completely unable to deliver anything.”
Still, Ardern’s character and leadership style were admired by most, and her supporters considered her an inspirational leader.
Clint Baker, South Aucklandwhich was reflected in the “Jacindo effect”.
“I will remember Jacinda’s time in office as a time when New Zealanders could be proud of the reputation she made for us around the world as a country.” ‘The Jacinda Effect’. I can’t think of any other leader, either here in NZ or in Australia, who has faced so many challenges during their time in office… Ardern’s responses have always been well articulated with warmth and empathy.”
“She was an inspirational leader during a very difficult time; she was a real leader during that time; her compassion and understanding were so refreshing and an antidote to the unpleasant divisive politics of some in this country and other parts of the world.” David McKenzie, New Zealand.
Dominic Hayes, Belgium said the 42-year-old “inspiring a new generation of leaders”.
“A breath of fresh air in politics, true compassion, empathy and humanity, but tough when it needed to be.”
Some of the responses have been edited for brevity