Kiri Allan: Politicians react to Labour minister's cancer diagnosis

"She is awesome. She is a force of nature."
"She is awesome. She is a force of nature." Photo credit: Getty.

Politicians are reeling from the news that Labour minister Kiri Allan has been diagnosed with cancer.

Allan, who entered Parliament in 2017, announced on Tuesday morning she will be taking medical leave from work after being diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer.

Her parliamentary colleagues reacted in sadness, but also heaped praise on the East Coast MP.

In a statement minutes after Allan's announcement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was "devastating", but knew Allan "as a person of determination". 

“Kiri’s Parliamentary family will do everything possible to support her during her treatment and recovery," Ardern said.

Speaking to reporters, the Labour leader said she was "gutted". 

"But we are also so heartened by the character, the person Kiri is. Right from the outset, she has shown a level of determination to focus on her health and wellbeing, but to, ultimately, come back and be part of the team again," Ardern said.

Jacinda Ardern and Kiri Allan.
Jacinda Ardern and Kiri Allan. Photo credit: Supplied.

Allan revealed in her announcement she found out the growth was approximately 6cm on the same day she was overseeing the emergency management response to the March earthquakes and tsunami. 

Ardern said she thought at the time if only people knew what Allan was also going through. 

"I knew what was going on at the time and at the time I found it remarkable to know that she was dealing with that level of uncertainty around a diagnosis, and yet there she was, on the podium, helping to lead the country through a really dramatic civil defence moment."

The Prime Minister said Allan's focus must now be on herself and her colleagues will be "ready and waiting" for when she is able to return. She said Allan has a "significant regime ahead of her". 

Kris Faafoi, the Labour minister who will take on the Emergency Management portfolio in Allan's absence, said it was a difficult situation. 

"I think everyone is saddened… She is awesome. She is a force of nature. We just have to make sure we support her for the next three or four months."

Kris Faafoi.
Kris Faafoi. Photo credit: Newshub.

Labour's Carmel Sepuloni, who works with Allan in the Arts, Culture and Heritage portfolio, sent her best wishes.

"Sending my aroha to this wāhine - my friend, colleague and Associate Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage Kiri Allan. Our collective thoughts and prayers are with you, and your whānau. To all our wāhine mā - please don't forget to get your regular smear. It's a call that cannot be reiterated enough. #SmearYourMea"

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March said: "Wishing you and your whānau the best in these challenging times, Kiri x."

"We are right beside you sister. Kia kaha tonu," Labour MP Shanan Halbert said.

"With you all the way, Kiri," said Labour's Deborah Russell.

Labour's Tamati Coffey said the story of cervical cancer is known well in Rotorua. 

"Cervical cancer is a threat to our women. Te Arawa legend, Talei Morrison fought the good fight raising awareness with women about the benefits of early intervention, before she passed," he wrote on Facebook.

"Today it's my colleague Kiri Allan who is about to fight the fight too. We as her work whanau are wrapping around her at this time as she faces one of life’s big challenges."

There was also support for Allan across the aisle.

"I’m so sorry to read that Kiri. It is very brave of you to let everyone share in this with you and your whanau. Best wishes," National Party leader Judith Collins wrote on Twitter. 

She later told reporters that the fact Allan dealt with March's natural disasters in between hospital visits spoke "volumes about her dedication and courage".

It is a reminder that cancer can strike anyone, said Collins, who is an ambassador for the Gynaecological Cancer Foundation.

"These are the sorts of things that very busy people tend to put off getting tests because we tend to put ourselves behind all of the work that we have to do. I think that Kiri's situation is a reminder to every woman to get out there and get tested."

"Sorry to hear this news Kiri. Thinking of you and wishing you all the best with the battle ahead. Kia Kaha," said National's Simeon Brown. 

"Really sorry to hear this Kiri. Wishing you a full and speedy recovery. Thoughts and prayers are with you and the family," said Mark Mitchell.

"Kiri and I were at law school together and she is a very popular and well liked Member of Parliament. My thoughts are with her and her whanau at this very tough time. You've got this Kiri," said Chris Bishop.

Jacqui Dean, National's Conservation spokesperson, wished Allan all the best.

"My heart goes out to Kiri Allan MP and her whānau following her cervical cancer diagnosis. As National’s Conservation spokesperson I may sit opposite Kiri in the House, but today my thoughts are with her and I wish her well as she starts this fight and undergoes the treatment she needs.

"Politics can be combative and competitive but not today. I wish you all the best Kiri. Stay strong. Arohanui."