Jacinda Ardern’s legacy has divided reader opinion. While many described the outgoing New Zealand prime minister as “inspirational” and praised her ability to manage a crisis, some responses also revealed anger at her handling of the Covid response and criticism for failure to deliver on promises.
Below is a selection of reader comments conveying the range of reactions when we asked the question: how will you remember Jacinda Ardern’s time as New Zealand PM.
Christchurch shootings and White Island / Whakaari disaster
When it comes to her response to the Christchurch mosque shootings and the White Island / Whakaari volcano disaster, Ardern, whose last official engagement is on Tuesday, was seen by many as a “crisis leader” and much admired.
“She has done a remarkable job as the prime minister. She will be remembered as a crisis leader – erupting volcano, global pandemic, terrorist attack ... She did unite us as a ‘team of five million’. She brought us closer together and navigated the country through one crisis after another.” Michal Chudzinski-Pawlowski, Auckland.
“The defining moment has to be the way she handled the Christchurch terror attack … She’s definitely up there with the best leaders to have ever scaled the heights of prime ministership.” Stephen Matich, Melbourne
On Covid, many welcomed the tough approach which in the first years of the pandemic saw New Zealand impose harsh restrictions and seal its borders.
“Very many thousands of people are alive and well today because of her and her government’s handling of the Covid pandemic.” Eileen Bowell, Hamilton.
“She saved thousands of lives during Covid when others could have cost us.” Michelle Bissenden, Dunedin.
However, others were unforgiving of the hardline stance. One reader, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote: “I missed giving my mother a hug before she died suddenly early 2021 due to Covid restrictions. The cost to so many New Zealanders of her draconian lockdown and management of [quarantine system] MIQ was unreasonable and breached our human rights.”
Esther Pocock, from Sweden, said Ardern “presided over a policy of rare cruelty and created divisions between Kiwis to maintain her hold”.
“She illegally locked approximately one 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 in.”
Some readers were critical of Ardern’s broader domestic policy record.
“The promise of more affordable housing has not been achieved; poverty among the poorest has not improved. There has been little progress on any reforms and so her legacy will be not remembered well.” Nick Gibson, New Zealand.
“She saved all her niceness for the world stage… She made a lot of promises and set a lot of goals and failed to fulfil any.” Mike ONeill, New Zealand.
Mike Richards, Hamilton, New Zealand, said Ardern “divided the nation”.
“She promised to prioritise child poverty, yet her policies made people poorer and created a major cost of living crisis … Her Covid policies kept children out of school for almost a year and now we have a ram-raiding crime crisis. She has led the most incompetent government we have ever had, capable of spending millions on committees and reports, but totally incapable of delivering anything.”
Yet most admired Ardern’s character and leadership style, with supporters regarding her as an inspirational leader.
Clint Baker, South Auckland, reflected on the “Jacinda effect”.
“I will remember Jacinda’s time in office as a time when New Zealanders could be proud of the reputation she gained for us around the world as a country. The ‘Jacinda effect’. I cannot recall any other leader, either here in NZ or in Australia having so many challenges during their time in office … Ardern’s responses were always well articulated with warmth and empathy.”
“She was an inspirational leader during a very difficult time; she was the right leader for the 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 “inspired a new generation of leaders”.
“A breath of fresh air in politics, genuine compassion, empathy and humanity, but tough when she needed to be.”
Some of the responses have been edited for brevity