'Not enough in the tank': Jacinda Ardern resigns as prime minister of New Zealand
New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern has announced she will step down because she "no longer had enough in the tank" to do the job justice.
Making the shock announcement at a caucus meeting on Thursday, the prime minister said she gave herself time over summer to consider whether she could continue in her post, but ultimately decided it was not possible.
"For me it's time," a visibly emotional Ms Ardern said.
"I just don't have enough in the tank for another four years. Have I given all I have to put us in the best possible position? I have. And I know that hand on heart.”
The Labour leader, who became the world’s youngest female head of government at the age of 37, will officially leave office no later than February 7.
During her tenure as prime minister, Ms Ardern came under fire from critics who accused her government of unnecessarily locking down the islands at times when there was no evidence of Covid-19 spreading in New Zealand communities.
The Labour leader’s popularity had also plummeted in the wake of worsening economic news and an escalating crime rate.
A series of mass protests by anti-vaccine groups outside Parliament House in Wellington only served to fuel anti-Ardern sentiment.
Ms Ardern clarified her resignation was for personal reasons, not because she did not believe she could win a re-election. She also emphasised she was "not leaving because it was hard".
"Had that been the case I probably would have departed two months into the job," she said.
"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."
She reaffirmed that it was "ultimately [her] decision" and that she only sought advice from a small number of people.
Ms Ardern said she wanted to spend more time with her family, which would involve taking her four-year-old daughter, Neve, to school and making her breakfast.
She is also looking forward to enjoying a cup of tea in bed that her fiancé, Clarke Gayford, would make her and finally being able to get married.
Addressing her fiancé, who sat in the front row of the press conference, she said: "Let’s finally get married".
The next general election in New Zealand will be held on October 14 and Ms Ardern said she still believed Labour would win.
“While I won’t be contesting the election, I know the issues that impact New Zealanders most will remain the focus of the government through this year and into the election," she said.
She hoped the next generation of politicians would value empathy and kindness.
“We have to be willing to reject some of those old characteristics as well," she added.
Following news of the resignation, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his "friend" Ms Ardern had "demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities".
"Jacinda Ardern has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength," Mr Albanese said in a tweet.
"Jacinda has been a fierce advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to so many and a great friend to me."
Canada’s prime minster Justin Trudeau thanked Ardern for her “empathetic, compassionate, strong and steady leadership".
“The difference you have made is immeasurable,” Mr Trudeau said.
New Zealand-born movie star Sam Neill said he did not blame his prime minister for resigning.
“Her treatment, the pile on, in the last few months has been disgraceful and embarrassing,” he added.
The Labour Party has yet to choose a replacement leader.
The decision is expected to be made by the party caucus on January 22.