Jacinda Ardern has choked back tears as she announced her resignation as New Zealand Prime Minister in an emotional press conference.

Her resignation comes into effect on Sunday if the Labour Party can elect her replacement, or on February 7 if the process was drawn out.

Ms Ardern said she hoped to find the energy and heart during the Christmas break to stay in the job, ‘but I have not been able to do that’.

‘I am human. Politicians are human. We give all we can for as long as we can – and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time,’ she said.

‘I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice.

‘I am leaving because with such a privileged job comes a big responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead – and also when you’re not.

‘I have given my absolute all to being prime minister but it has also taken a lot out of me. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that inevitably come along.

‘Having reflected over summer I know I no longer have that bit extra in the tank to do the job justice. It’s that simple.’

Ms Ardern resigns at just 42 after becoming leader just over five years ago on October 26, 2017, and was New Zealand’s youngest-ever PM, and before that youngest sitting MP in 2008, aged 28.

Jacinda Ardern has choked back tears as she announced her resignation as New Zealand Prime Minister

Ms Ardern embraces her fiancé Clarke Gayford after announcing her resignation and declaring that they could finally get married

Ms Ardern embraces her fiancé Clarke Gayford after announcing her resignation and declaring that they could finally get married

She insisted her party trailing in the polls the the rival National Party ahead of the upcoming election had nothing to do with her decision to step down.

‘The Labour team are incredibly well placed to contest the next election. They are the most experienced team in the country and have shown they have the skills necessary to respond to whatever comes their way,’ she said.

‘I am not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election but because I believe we can and will. But we need a fresh set of shoulders for the challenges of both this year and the next three.’

The Labour Party caucus was shocked when she told them of her intention to resign in recent days, but Ms Ardern said they understood and did not begrudge her stepping down.

‘If I don’t have what it takes, I need to let someone else take on this job,’ she said.

During her resignation speech, Ms Ardern announced the next New Zealand election would be held on October 14. She will stay Mt Albert MP until April so a byelection would not be needed.

Mr Gayford watches on as his fiancée announces her resignation and New Zealand PM, and that they would finally get married

Mr Gayford watches on as his fiancée announces her resignation and New Zealand PM, and that they would finally get married

Ms Ardern and Mr Gayford pose with their baby daughter Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford outside the hospital in Auckland on June 28, 2018

Ms Ardern and Mr Gayford pose with their baby daughter Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford outside the hospital in Auckland on June 28, 2018

Ms Ardern faced unrelenting criticism for implementing some of the harshest Covid restriction in the world including lockdowns where New Zealanders couldn’t even buy takeaway food and a more than two-year border closure.

But she denied the constant attacks, which continued last year as the economy faltered and cost of living rose, played a role in her decision.

‘I’m not leaving because it’s hard… I know when I have enough left in the tank to do it justice. I would be doing a disservice to New Zealanders to continue,’ she said.

The resigning PM was asked if she would take up a role with the UN after leaving office and didn’t give a straight answer.

Instead, she insisted she had ‘no plans’ other than relaxing with her daughter Neve and marrying her fiancé Clarke Gayford after their wedding was called off due to Covid restrictions.

‘I am looking forward to spending time with my family once again… so to Neve, mumma is looking forward to being there when you start school this year, and to Clarke, let’s finally get married,’ she said.

Ms Ardern said she had not yet told her daughter of her plans because ‘four-year-olds are chatty, I couldn’t take the risk’.

Ms Ardern imposed some of the world's harshest Covid restrictions and only allowed visitors to enter less than a year ago

Ms Ardern imposed some of the world’s harshest Covid restrictions and only allowed visitors to enter less than a year ago

Protesters gather outside parliament in Wellignton on November 9, 2021, calling for an end to Covid restrictions and vaccine mandates in New Zealand

Protesters gather outside parliament in Wellignton on November 9, 2021, calling for an end to Covid restrictions and vaccine mandates in New Zealand

She said she left without regrets, offering a simple way she would like to be remembered.

‘As someone who always tried to be kind,’ she said.

‘I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader – one who knows when it’s time to go.’

Ms Ardern reflected on her years in the top job, during which she led NZ through Covid and the Christchurch mosque massacre, calling it ‘the most fulfilling five and a half years of my life’.

‘Being prime minister has been the greatest honour of my life and I want to thank New Zealanders for the enormous privilege of leading the country for the last five and a half years,’ she said.

‘In addition to our ambitious agenda that has sought to address long term issues like the housing crisis, child poverty and climate change, we also had to respond to a major biosecurity incursion, a domestic terror attack, a volcanic eruption and a one in one hundred year global pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. 

‘The decisions that had to be made have been constant and weighty. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved over the last five years in spite of the many challenges thrown at us.’

Ms Ardern unveils Covid alert levels, which led to some of the world's hardest restrictions, as she closed the country's borders on March 21, 2020

Ms Ardern unveils Covid alert levels, which led to some of the world’s hardest restrictions, as she closed the country’s borders on March 21, 2020

Ms Ardern famously showed compassion and respect for victims of the March 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre by wearing a headscarf as she met with families and others in the local Muslim community in the days after

Ms Ardern famously showed compassion and respect for victims of the March 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre by wearing a headscarf as she met with families and others in the local Muslim community in the days after

Ms Ardern listed some of the achievements she was most proud of: reducing child poverty, boosting public housing, increasing welfare support, and improving pay and conditions for workers and access to education and training.

NZ also instituted the Matariki public holiday on her watch, which celebrates the Maori new year during late June or early July, depending on the year.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed his admiration for his close ally and wished her well after politics.

‘Jacinda Ardern has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength. She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities,’ he said.

‘Jacinda has been a fierce advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to so many and a great friend to me.’

More to come 

Jacinda Ardern resignation speech

‘Being Prime Minister has been the greatest honour of my life and I want to thank New Zealanders for the enormous privilege of leading the country for the last five and a half years.

‘With holding such a privileged role comes responsibility, including the responsibility to know when you’re the right person to lead, and also when you’re not.

‘I have given my absolute all to being Prime Minister but it has also taken a lot out of me. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that inevitably come along.

‘Having reflected over summer I know I no longer have that bit extra in the tank to do the job justice. It’s that simple.

‘I have spoken to the Governor-General this morning to let her know.

‘In addition to our ambitious agenda that has sought to address long term issues like the housing crisis, child poverty and climate change, we also had to respond to a major biosecurity incursion, a domestic terror attack, a volcanic eruption and a one in one hundred year global pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. The decisions that had to be made have been constant and weighty.

‘I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved over the last five years in spite of the many challenges thrown at us. We’ve turned around child poverty statistics and made the most significant increases in welfare support and public housing stock seen in many decades.

‘We’ve made it easier to access education and training while improving the pay and conditions of workers. And we’ve worked hard to make progress on issues around our national identify – I believe that teaching our history in schools and celebrating Matariki as our own indigenous national holiday will all make a difference for years to come.

‘And we’ve done that while responding to some of the biggest threats to the health and economic wellbeing of New Zealanders, arguably since World War Two.

‘The Labour team are incredibly well placed to contest the next election. They are the most experienced team in the country and have shown they have the skills necessary to respond to whatever comes their way.

‘I’m not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election, but because I believe Labour can and will win it. We need a fresh set of shoulders for the challenges of both this year and the next three.

‘As to my time in the job, I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader – one who knows when it’s time to go.’



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