'People feel Jacinda's listening to them' - Helen Clark

  • 20/10/2017

Incoming prime minister Jacinda Ardern's ability to listen deeply to people's concerns and then work hard to solve them has mentor Helen Clark excited for what is to come.

Ms Ardern on Thursday raced into the country's top job just 81 days after taking over a beleaguered Labour Party in opposition.

She became the country's third female Prime Minister, following on from Ms Clark, who spent almost a decade in charge of the country from 1999 to 2008.

Ms Ardern also spent time working as a researcher for Ms Clark, shortly after graduating from university.

Earlier, Ms Clark took to Facebook to call Ms Ardern's victory "extraordinary" and "historic".

It had been Ms Ardern's willingness to tackle hard work and her empathy that stood out as important parts of her success, Ms Clark told RNZ by phone from Britain on Friday morning.

"People feel Jacinda is listening to them," Ms Clark said.

"She wants to do good, she wants to make New Zealand a better place, and she has shown that she has the leadership capacity to get on and do it."

Having also served as a coalition prime minister under New Zealand's MMP voting system, Ms Clark backed Ms Ardern's ability to lead a government alongside Winston Peters' NZ First and the Green Party.

She said Ms Ardern had "been beavering away for nine years" as part of a "considerable parliamentary apprenticeship" and that the key to coalition politics was good faith and constant communication.

Ms Clark spent three years working in coalition with Mr Peters during her third term of government and said "everything that New Zealand First committed to do in the agreement it made with Labour, it kept its word on".

"It can be done," she said of the new agreement between the two parties, adding that a government led by Ms Ardern would create a "fairer, better and more sustainable New Zealand".

NZN