Jacinda Ardern resignation: why is New Zealand Prime Minister stepping down - what did she say in speech?

The outgoing Prime Minister addressed her partner Clarke Gayford in her speech, saying it was time to ‘finally get married’

Jacinda Ardern has announced her shock resignation as New Zealand Prime Minister, saying she “no longer has enough in the tank” to do the role justice.

In an emotional speech at the New Zealand Labour party’s annual caucus meeting, the 42-year-old said it was “time” to step down.

Why is she resigning?

In her speech, Arden said that she “knows what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice”.

In her speech, she announced the date of the next general election which will take place in 2023, and said that the “impending election and new political term has given me time for reflection”.

She said: “I am entering now my sixth year in office. And for each of those years, I have given my absolute all. I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also one of the more challenging. You cannot, and should not do it unless you have a full tank, plus, a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges.

“This summer, I had hoped to find a way to prepare for not just another year, but another term – because that is what this year requires. I have not been able to do that.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation at the War Memorial Centre on January 19, 2023 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

Ardern said that her time in office has been “the most fulfilling five and a half years of my life” but that it “has also had its challenges”.

She continued: “But 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. But I absolutely believe and know, there are others around me who do.”

Ardern ended her speech by saying: “I want to finish with a simple thank you to New Zealanders for giving me this opportunity to serve, and to take on what has and will always be the greatest role in my life.

“I hope in return I leave 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.”

The day after making the announcement, Ardern said that she has “no regrets” over her decision to step down as the New Zealand leader. She said that she was feeling a “range of emotions”, from sadness to a “sense of relief”.

When will she be stepping down?

Ardern on Thursday told reporters her last day would be no later than February 7.

What happens next?

With Thursday’s announcement, Ardern revealed that the general election for 2023 will be held on Saturday 14 October.

Speaking about what was next for her, Ardern said: “I intend to remain the Member for Mt Albert through till April. This will give me a bit of time in the electorate before I depart, and also spare them and the country a by-election.

“Beyond that, I have no plan. No next steps. All I know is that whatever I do, I will try and find ways to keep working for New Zealand and that I am looking forward to spending time with my family again – arguably, they are the ones that have sacrificed the most out of all of us.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford leave after she announces her resignation at the War Memorial Centre on January 19, 2023 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

“And so to Neve, mum is looking forward to being there when you start school this year.

“And to Clarke, let’s finally get married.”

Ardern has been engaged to TV presenter Clarke Gayford since 2019, however their wedding, which was scheduled for January 2022, was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Together, Ardern and Gayford share their daughter, Neve, who was born on 21 June 2018.

How long has she been Prime Minister?

Arden made history as the world’s youngest female head of government when she was made Prime Minister in October 2017 at age 37, after New Zealand First leader Winston Peters agreed to form a coalition with Labour.

She is New Zealand’s third female Prime Minister, following on from Jenny Shipley (1997 - 1999) and Helen Clark (1999 - 2008).

In 2018, Ardern made history again by giving birth while in office – making her the world’s second elected head of government to do so. Following the birth of her daughter, Ardern took her maternity leave from 21 June to 2 August.