Jacinda Ardern resignation: Her meteoric rise - and the bombshell announcement that shocked New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced her resignation.

After five-and-a-half years, Ardern said she no longer has enough gas in the tank for the demanding job.

The Labour party caucus will vote on Sunday for the person who will be our next Prime Minister.

The announcement dropped like a bombshell. 

Overwhelmed with emotion, taking a moment to pause and then smile, Ardern then announced her time was up. 

"I am announcing that I will not be seeking re-election," she said. 

Holding back tears, Ardern told the country she is done.

"My term  as Prime Minister will conclude no later than February 7."

Five-and-a-half years at the top felt like a lifetime.

"I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple."

Shock is an understatement, her colleagues were dumbfounded.

"This morning has come as a shock. It wasn't the day we expected to wake up to," said Labour MP Kiri Allan.

"It came as a surprise, it wasn't the conversation that I had thought we would be having," said colleague Nanaia Mahuta. 

"I was just so sad and disappointed," said Willie Jackson.

"It was a surprise, obviously, but I am extremely privileged to have worked in her Cabinet for five years," said Labour's Andrew Little.

Ardern made the announcement on Thursday.
Ardern made the announcement on Thursday. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Ardern said it is fair to say her colleagues were "surprised" when she told them.

Surprised but grateful, with the caucus delivering resounding applause, hugs, and a waiata - Ardern got the lot.

And it's not just from her MPs, the love and shock reverberated through the family too.

"I haven't [told Neve] yet, four-year-olds are chatty, I couldn't risk it. "

The Opposition was also hit by the bolt out of the blue.

"Our caucus got together after watched the television and talked about it briefly and the election date, and then we carried on," said National leader Christopher Luxon.

Members of the public Newshub spoke to were also taken off-guard.

"About time aye, to be honest. Labour have been running this country pretty badly and it shows aye," said one of Ardern's Mt Albert constituents. 

"I think it's a wise decision. Her own personal popularity has taken a hit in the last year or so," said another.

Across Auckland, there was a mixed bag of reactions. 

"That's really sad, I'm a really big fan," said one person. 

"She's done her dash, see ya later, get somebody else to take over," added another.

"What? Wow, that's a shame," a third said.

There were similar sentiments in Wellington.

"I was kinda expecting her to stay on a bit longer. I didn't really have any negative feelings towards her," said one person.

"I think it's a good thing, yeah," said another. 

"I'm not from New Zealand, I'm from Austria, but I can't tell you how happy that makes me!" said a tourist.

And down south in Christchurch.

"She has done a great job, represented New Zealand well internationally. It's been a tough few years to be the Prime Minister hasn't it so yeah, I think she's done well," a person said.

"Bit of a surprise isn't it? Not really unexpected though, no I wish her all the best for the future." 

The bombshell hit the same everywhere - what? why? 

"The only interesting angle you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges, that I am human," said Ardern. "Politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can, and then it's time."

Asked what was the moment she realised she couldn't do it anymore, Ardern said: "You'll hear from my reflections that there hasn't been one singular moment, not one point in time, I think the cumulative challenges that we've faced as a team... has taken its toll."

It's been a lot.

From her meteoric rise to the leadership of the Labour Party six weeks out from the 2017 election, She took the reins of the country at the same time as preparing for the job of a lifetime, motherhood.

But after the happiest times came the darkest times.

On March 15, 2019, 51 people lost their lives in the Christchurch terrorist attack. Then there was the Whakaari/White Island eruption. 

With the turn of a new decade came perhaps her greatest ongoing challenge, a deadly pandemic. Ardern was charged with protecting a nation.

Ardern's Labour was successful at the 2020 election.
Ardern's Labour was successful at the 2020 election. Photo credit: Getty Images.

She took an unprecedented step and locked down the entire country.

Ardern rose to unfathomable heights of popularity with a majority MMP government.

Then the popularity plummeted.

Unpopular policy and restrictions took their toll. The public turned and they protested.

Right up until Christmas Ardern promised she'd stick it out and she was in it for the long haul.

But ultimately, she's got nothing left to give.

"I'm not leaving because it's hard, had that been the case I probably would've departed two months into the job," Ardern said.

"I'm leaving because with such an extraordinary role comes responsibility, the responsibility to know when is the right time to lead and when it's not."

And now its time to finally give some time to her family

"So to Neve, mum is looking forward to being there when you start school this year, and to Clarke, let's finally get married. 18

From let's do this to I'm done.