Jacinda Ardern ended 40th birthday reading cabinet papers

By Bronson Perich

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has led the country through some of the worst tragedies in Aotearoa history.

The Christchurch terror attack, the Whakaari/White Island eruption and the Covid-19 outbreak and her subsequent actions have earned her a new title, 'Aunty Jacinda'.

So how does a prime minister who has led a nation through a terrorist attack, a volcanic eruption and a global pandemic spend her 40th birthday?

"(Eating) more cake than I've had than previous birthdays," the PM said.

After breakfast with whānau, spending time with partner Clarke Gayford and her daughter Neve, she ended the night, reading of all things, cabinet papers.

Deputy Labour Party Kelvin Davis - Photo / File

Can the Labour cabinet be trusted?

Asked about the concerns that people may have about her caucus, the PM pointed to her Māori MPs as trustworthy people.

She paid tribute to deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis, for his work to reduce prison populations.

"It's a huge piece of work to take on but he's been very bold in the vision he's had."

She also praised cabinet ministers Nanaia Mahuta and Willie Jackson.

"Nanaia has taken this enormous job of resolving issues over water in New Zealand, the quality of water that we all drink every day. Local government speaks very highly of the work she's doing with them.

"Willie Jackson is focused on getting youth unemployment down, in particular through He Poutama Rangatahi, Mana in Mahi, amazing programmes and bringing back Māori apprenticeships."

Minister for Māori Development and Local Government Nanaia Mahuta - Photo / File

How to pay back a $50 billion loan?

Asked about the extra $50 billion of national debt, and her plans to pay it back, Ardern wasn't slow to answer.

"Just look at our record before Covid-19 struck," the PM says. "We'd got unemployment down to levels we hadn't seen in a decade. We'd brought down our debt as a nation to put us in a good position should we have to deal with an extraordinary event."

Ardern repeated the comments used by her finance minister Grant Robertson, that Covid-19 was the 'rainy day' her coalition government was preparing for.

She says Labour has a five-point plan to build an economy that will pay back the debt incurred to get Aotearoa out of Covid-19 economic issues.

What about Ihumātao?

The Pallet Palace Pā at Ihumātao - Photo / File

The PM recalled that, on her 39th birthday last year, the Ihumātao occupation had reached a turning point. The SOUL protestors, led by Pania Newton had been issued with an eviction notice.

Despite negotiations, secret meetings and rumours of the government buying Ihumātao, it seems a resolution is still beyond reach.

She says supporting the Kiingitanga to take a facilitative role was the right call at the time.

"While it's not quite come to its conclusion, I think enormous progress has been made, I do believe there will be a resolution."

She believes it will be a resolution in everybody's best interest.

Politics - a place where positive change can happen

After 12 years as an MP and three years as PM, Jacinda Ardern has yet to turn cynical. Her 'be kind' approach has often been criticised by those who thought she wasn't up to the top job.

Being the first prime minister to give birth in office made her subject to even more criticism. The prime minister explains her reason for entering the political arena.

"I've always been driven by people - that's why I ended up in politics," Ardern says.

"As much as it has a bit of a rough reputation, I still say this is a place where we can make changes for the better."