Jacinda Ardern's response to the Christchurch terror attack, 'They are us', named Quote of the Year

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's response to the Christchurch attack in March has been named 2019's Massey University Quote of the Year. 

"They are us," Ardern said the day a suspected white supremacist gunman killed 51 people at two mosques.

Competition organiser Heather Kavan said it conveyed the feelings of many.

"We were all putting ourselves in the shoes of the victims and the victims' families, and Jacinda Ardern summed it up with these three words."

Ardern wrote the words on an A4 sheet of paper in the minutes following the attack, and they appeared in a speech she gave that afternoon.

"Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home," Ardern said.

"They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was."

Kavan says the sentiment has stuck with a lot of people.

"I think it was the emotional power of the event. Interestingly, in terms of Quote of the Year, even the trolls were silenced by these quotes."

Ardern's phrase received 20 percent of the votes.

The words of victim Haji-Daoud Nabi, who stood at the door of the mosque and said "Hello brother" before being the first person shot in the atrocity, came in at a close second with 18 percent.

"The words have an almost visceral effect," said Kavan. "Before Jacinda Ardern spoke a message of unity, Haji-Daoud Nabi lived and breathed it in his final moments as he faced the killer.  

"We don't have an image of him saying 'Hello brother' because the footage is banned, nor will we ever know what he was thinking or feeling. But if ever there was an existential moment, this was it."

Kavansays the shortlist was more sombre than usual this year. 

"Usually when people vote on quotes they like mistakes and slips of the tongue - they far prefer our mistakes to our pearls of wisdom. But this year, those very powerful quotes took precedence."

One humorous phrase that led voting for a while before falling back to third was MP Chloe Swarbrick's 'OK boomer', which made headlines worldwide after she used it in Parliament.

National Party leader Simon Bridges won the competition last year with a slip of the tongue - calling his deputy 'Paula Benefit' instead of Bennett, using a derisive nickname coined by her opponents when she was Social Development Minister under John Key.