How Jacinda Ardern's engagement bucks the trend

It's probably a coincidence Jacinda Ardern announced her engagement on the same day statistics showing fewer Kiwis were bothering with the institution of marriage, according to a political commentator.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford got engaged over the Easter weekend, but no one spotted she was wearing a ring until Friday.

Even then, Ardern kept it low-key.

"It wasn't an announcement - it was her putting out a press release," Victoria University's Bryce Edwards told Newshub. "It was in reaction to people discovering that she was wearing a wedding ring."

He says the Prime Minister's previous status - a mother, but unmarried - isn't the big issue that it once was.

"It's quite fitting that this discovery of the engagement came out on the same day as news that New Zealand's marriage rate is at an all-time low."

But for some, it is a big deal. Christian lobby group Family First said it was "disturbing" fewer Kiwis are getting married.

In 1992 the marriage rate was 18.3 couples per 1000 eligible people. Despite the number of marriages (and from 2005, civil unions) hovering around 20,000 a year, New Zealand's growing population has seen the rate drop to 10.9 per 1000 in 2017.

"We should be concerned that marriage rates are at an all-time low. The weakening of marriage is one of the most important social issues we are facing," said Family First director Bob McCoskrie.

"Children being raised by their married biological parents are by far the safest from violence... On average, children raised by married couples have the best outcomes in health, education and income, and by far the lowest involvement with the criminal justice system."

Bob McCoskrie.
Bob McCoskrie. Photo credit: The AM Show

McCoskrie's statement on Friday appeared to ignore the other statistic released Friday - that divorce rates have dropped too. They peaked in 2003 at 12.8 per 1000 marriages, and have fallen about 35 percent to 8.4.

Those who do divorce also wait longer to do so, Statistics NZ said.

"In 2017, the median duration of marriages and civil unions ending in divorce was at its highest in the last 25 years - 14 years, compared with 12 years in 1992."

Support from political allies, opponents

Simon Bridges, Judith Collins and Chris Hipkins have all shown their support for Ardern and Gayford.

Dr Edwards said the announcement could even boost her popularity amongst conservatives who normally wouldn't vote Labour.

"There are going to be a number of conservative voters who will be more approving of the Prime Minister now, being more conventional in her marital status."