Simon Bridges accused of 'disrespectful', 'sexist' remarks over Jacinda Ardern's Tokelau visit

Simon Bridges has labelled New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a "part-time Prime Minister" for travelling to Tokelau during the Ihumātao protests - but now he's been accused of sexism. 

Ardern's presence is a big deal for those in Nukunonu, Tokelau. A Prime Minister has not set foot there for 15 years. 

Tokelau is a realm country of New Zealand, meaning its 1500 Tokelauans are Kiwis. If Tokelau's atolls are destroyed by climate change, they could make New Zealand home. 

Ardern has reiterated the significant threat that climate change poses to Tokelau's future, saying the risks are "very real" and have to be taken seriously.

The atolls are very flat, making them susceptible to rising sea levels. They are also very narrow, the walk from one end to the other taking only a matter of minutes. 

"That will mean If we did find ourselves in a position where they need a more secure environment, we would make sure New Zealand is involved," Ardern told Newshub.

National Leader Simon Bridges has come out swinging, saying Ardern should be focusing New Zealanders who are actually in New Zealand.

"Where is she? She's gone on a trip for days to Tokelau - 1500 people, well every MP has a street in New Zealand which she hasn't visited that has many more people than that," says Bridges.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has called Bridges' remarks "disrespectful" to the Tokelau community, saying "the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister for all New Zealanders".

Parliament has just returned from a three week break, the end of which was dominated by the continuing standoff at Ihumātao. 

Bridges says timing is everything.

"Right now? When she's just had a three week recess?" says Bridges.

"When you've got the first Māori land occupation we've seen in a very long time, it beggars belief that the Prime Minister right now is in Tokelau."

"She's showing herself, and the Government is showing itself to be a part-time Prime Minister and Government.

"I do wonder if there is a bit of a sexist overtone in that," Robertson said about Bridges' statements.

The Prime Minister's office has hit back, saying she's visiting a nation of New Zealand citizens who were ignored by National.

"Sometimes families have long gaps between reunions, but I hope this will be a special one. I know it will be for me," Ardern said in Tokelau.

The atolls are extremely remote. It is a 24-hour boat trip from Samoa - the Prime Minister simply cannot spin on her heels and go home.

While Ardern is in Tokelau, the locals are doing everything they can to celebrate the Prime Minister's presence.