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Ready for the backbench and ‘to be a mum’, Ardern bids emotional farewell

Prince William was greeted with a hongi, a traditional Maori greeting, by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Auckland in 2019.

“Thank you Jacinda Ardern for your friendship, leadership and support over the years,” reads a tweet posted to the couple’s official account, @kensingtonroyal, “not least at the time of my grandmother’s death. Sending you, Clarke and Neve our best wishes”.

It was signed off informally with “W & C”, for William and Catherine.

Ardern met the now-heir to the throne William and his wife Catherine a number of times during her nearly two terms as prime minister, including when the prince visited Christchurch as the Queen’s representative following the 2019 terror attacks.

Later that year, William sent Ardern’s daughter Neve a personalised buzzy bee for her first birthday. The two share the same birthday, June 21.

Ardern made her final public appearance as prime minister on Tuesday, saying she would mostly miss the people because they had been the “joy of the job”. She bid an emotional farewell in the small town of Ratana, north of the capital Wellington, where she spoke of the kindness and empathy New Zealanders had shown her, and said she was ready to be a sister and a mother.

Days after stunning the world by announcing she had “no more in the tank” to lead the country and would step down, the 42-year-old arrived at a gathering of politicians and Maori elders, and was instantly surrounded by supporters seeking photographs.

Jacinda Ardern, centre, Chris Hipkins, far left, and her caucus arrive at Ratana, New Zealand on Tuesday.

Jacinda Ardern, centre, Chris Hipkins, far left, and her caucus arrive at Ratana, New Zealand on Tuesday.Credit:New Zealand Herald/AP

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the greatest privilege of my life,” Ardern told the gathering.

Ardern, along with Hipkins and opposition politicians, were making an annual visit to Ratana, where a week-long celebration is held for the birth of Maori prophet Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, centre, has a photo taken as she arrives at Ratana on Tuesday.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, centre, has a photo taken as she arrives at Ratana on Tuesday.Credit:New Zealand Herald/AP

Wearing a black dress with her shoulders covered in a traditional Maori cloak, called korowai, she led members of her party onto the community grounds as a brass band played. The speeches and accompanying songs and dances that followed saw elders speak with humour and warmth about Ardern.

“Thanks so much for teaching us to love quickly,” one elder told Ardern.

Ardern responded, saying she that hadn’t planned to speak but that those there refused to give her an out.

Incoming Labour leader and Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, hugs a friend during the Ratana celebrations.

Incoming Labour leader and Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, hugs a friend during the Ratana celebrations.Credit:Getty Images

“My overall experience in this job of New Zealand and New Zealanders in this job has been one of love, empathy and kindness,” she said.

The left-leaning global icon gained attention for bringing her baby to a United Nations meeting and wearing a hijab after a massacre targeting Muslims. Although she became a target for hate and online abuse by right-wing extremists on social media, she said she was leaving the job with love in her heart.

“I want you to know I leave with a greater love and affection for Aotearoa New Zealand and its people than when I started.”

Before heading onto the grounds, Ardern faced the media for possibly the last time as prime minister, smiling broadly and declining to answer political questions, saying they were now the responsibility of her successor.

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“I am ready to be lots of things. I’m ready to be a back bench MP. I’m ready to be a sister and a mum,” she said.

Her daughter Neve is four years old and starts school in June.

Hipkins was the only person nominated to take over as Labour Party leader. He was first elected to parliament in 2008.

Reuters, AAP, Stuff.co.nz

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