Acclaimed Kiwi author Eleanor Catton takes aim at Jacinda Ardern over inequity 'rising in New Zealand at terrific rate'

  • 02/03/2023

An acclaimed Kiwi author has attacked former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, accusing her of not addressing the inequity she believes is skyrocketing in New Zealand at a "terrific rate".

Eleanor Catton is a Man Booker award-winning author, becoming the youngest winner of the prize in 2013 for her novel The Luminaries. Catton has recently released Birnam Wood, her third novel.

In interviews discussing her latest novel, published last week, the author took aim at Ardern while speaking to some world media outlets - saying she couldn't see any evidence of "political change".

"Inequity is rising in New Zealand at a terrific rate," Catton told The Sydney Morning Herald.

She also said the COVID-19 pandemic caused wealthy people to make "a profit and people who struggled were struggling more".

In a separate interview with The Irish Times, Catton slated Ardern for earlier ruling out a capital gains tax - saying it was a "pretty huge betrayal of young people".  

It's not the first time Catton has hit out at a New Zealand Government. She sparked controversy in 2015 when she told foreign reporters Aotearoa - under then-Prime Minister Sir John Key - was dominated by "neo-liberal, profit-obsessed" politicians

Ardern's Labour party achieved a historic election result in 2020, securing a majority of seats in the House. It was the first time any party has done so in the MMP era, with Ardern's leadership during the COVID-19 crisis seen as being one of the key reasons she was able to pull voters away from other parties.

In her victory speech, she promised Labour would "be a party which governs for every New Zealander".

Eleanor Catton.
Eleanor Catton. Photo credit: Variety via Getty Images

Ardern resigned in January, with Chris Hipkins later taking over as Prime Minister.

Hipkins, like Ardern before him, was facing an ongoing cost of living crisis. Consumer price index figures released in January showed annual inflation hit 7.2 percent - close to a three-decade high. 

Housing and household utilities were the largest contributors to inflation, Statistics NZ said.

National and ACT have repeatedly blamed Government spending for the jump, claims repeatedly dismissed by Ardern, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and now Hipkins

After becoming Prime Minister, Hipkins has focused on the cost of living crisis by lifting the minimum wage, extending fuel tax cuts and reprioritising some taxpayer money.

Hipkins said such a lift to the minimum wage - by $1.50 to $22.70 - was "critical" so "those who struggle the most to make ends meet" were supported "in tough times". 

The Greens welcomed the minimum wage increase. However, the left-wing party called for "bolder solutions" to help struggling families.