Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern praises Auckland cleaner as unsung hero of pandemic

An Auckland cleaner was singled out by the Prime Minister as an unsung hero of the COVID-19 pandemic and someone who deserves special recognition.

Rose Kavapalu works at Otahuhu Police Station, but she says she doesn't see herself as a hero.

"To pick me to say thank you - it's just huge. It's almost like a gift from the Prime Minister."

She's the only full-time contractor at the police station, and with 220 officers coming and going each day, her work is more vital than ever. Something Jacinda Ardern acknowledged on Wednesday during a press conference.

"Even Rose, a cleaner at Otahuhu Police Station who currently works 13-hour days. These are our essential workers and I hope we continue to recognise them as that, long after this pandemic has passed."

Kavapalu, who was working during Ardern's mention of her, had no idea it was coming.

Police at the station know that without her, they could easily be put in harm's way.

"It's absolutely essential that everything is cleaned and disinfected all the time regularly around the station during the day," Otahuhu Police Station Senior Sergeant Emiel Logan says. "My staff are out dealing with people in the public all day, every day."

With four children, a sick husband and two elderly parents at home, Kavapalu knows the risk she's putting them at too.

"I am the one who will bring the sickness and virus to them, but I have no option [to not work]."

But she had one favour to ask Ardern on behalf of the country's cleaners.

"One more favour to ask - the living wage. We have been crying out for so many years.

Not every hero wears a cape - sometimes they shoot from the hip with a spray bottle of disinfectant.