Jacinda Ardern shares final message as Prime Minister from Rātana

Jacinda Ardern has delivered her final speech as Prime Minister and says she is leaving office with a "greater love and affection for Aotearoa New Zealand and its people" than when she started.

Ardern, as well as politicians from a range of parties, descended on Rātana on Tuesday for what's considered the unofficial start of the political year. 

Ardern will formally tender her resignation on Wednesday and Chris Hipkins will be sworn in as Prime Minister.

During Ardern's brief speech at the celebrations, she paid special tribute to Hipkins and soon-to-be Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni.

"I've known them for many years, particularly Chris, going on 20 [years] at last count," she said. "You knew me as aunty, I hope you know him as Chippy, because it speaks to who he is as a person. He's personable, down-to-earth, practical, and good with tools.

"Chippy, you're a colleague and friend to us all, but I know you'll be a wonderful Prime Minister."

In her closing remarks, Ardern addressed speculation about the hate and vitriol she received during her tenure.

"There's been a little bit of discussion since I made my announcement about my resignation," she said. 

"For my part, I want you to know that my overwhelming experience in this job of New Zealand and New Zealanders has been one of love, empathy, and kindness. That is what the majority of New Zealand has shown to me.

"And I want you to know that I leave with a greater love and affection for Aotearoa New Zealand and its people than when I started - and I didn't think that was possible."

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub.

Earlier in the day, Ardern spoke to media and said she would step back from the political spotlight to a degree after her resignation.

"You won't find me commenting on domestic politics. I've had my time. It's now for the new team."

Ardern will continue her role as Mt Albert's electorate MP until she steps down from it in April.

"I'm ready to be many things. I'm ready to be a backbench MP," she said. "I'm ready to be a sister and a mum."

Politicians have descended on Rātana, which is a small pā south of Whanganui and home to Rātana church, for decades. 

The movement, started by Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana about a century ago, became closely aligned with the Labour Party in the 1930s after several Rātana members were elected to Parliament in Māori electorates and supported then-Labour leader Michael Joseph Savage.

Celebrations are held for a week each January to mark the birthday of Rātana on January 25.