Political jabs and mountains of praise: Kiwis react to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's shock resignation

Praise is flowing in for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after she announced her resignation ahead of the 2023 general election. 

The Labour leader took office in 2017 and has led the country for five years. Speaking with media on Thursday, Ardern said she will not seek re-election and will stand down on February 7. 

"Being Prime Minister has been the greatest honour of my life and I want to thank New Zealanders for the enormous privilege of leading the country for the last five and a half years," Jacinda Ardern said.

"With holding such a privileged role comes responsibility, including the responsibility to know when you're the right person to lead, and also when you're not.  

"I have given my absolute all to being Prime Minister but it has also taken a lot out of me. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that inevitably come along. 

"Having reflected over summer I know I no longer have that bit extra in the tank to do the job justice. It's that simple."

The Prime Minister's resignation came as a shock with her previously saying she had no plans to step down.

Several politicians and public figures have heaped praise on Ardern after her announcement.

"Thanks @jacindaardern .. you've been one hell of a boss. The struggle continues. Ka whawhai tonu mātou," Labour MP Tāmati Coffey tweeted. 

"It's my privilege to have served with @jacindaardern and to have witnessed her strength, intellect and humanity as she led us through the pandemic. Her leadership saved tens of thousands of New Zealand lives," Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said. 

National leader Christchurch Luxon also thanked Ardern for her service. 

"On behalf of the National Party, I offer to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern our thanks for her service to New Zealand. She has given her all to this incredibly demanding job and I wish her and her family all the very best for the future. Thank you Jacinda," Luxon tweeted. 

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson have also thanked Ardern for her service.

"Jacinda Ardern has been a decisive and tireless leader of our country through unprecedented challenges, and we will be sorry to see her go," Shaw said.

"The Prime Minister has fostered an extremely positive and constructive working relationship between her party and the Greens, and I'm proud of everything we have achieved together in government over the last five years.

"We haven't always agreed on everything, but even in times of disagreement we have appreciated and valued the constructive nature of the Prime Minister and her team."

Davidson said Ardern's "compassion in times of crisis, her determination to make progress towards a fairer and safer Aotearoa, and her leadership of two multi-party governments is a cause for huge admiration".

"Politics takes its toll, and I know the Prime Minister won't have made her decision lightly.
"The Greens look forward to continuing our Cooperation Agreement work taking action on climate, protecting nature, and making sure everyone has what they need to live a good life.

"Labour's process to choose a new leader is for Labour. We will not be commenting, other than to say we look forward to continuing our work together, for the rest of this term and the next," she added.

But not everyone had kind words for the Prime Minister. Political rival and ACT leader David Seymour said Ardern "is a well-meaning person, but her idealism collided hard with reality".

"We wish her and her family well for their future. Ardern's collision with reality has left this country with big problems: the economy, the lawlessness, the Treaty.

"New Zealand needs a new government of real change and ACT will be providing the ideas and the backbone to make the change real," Seymour added. 

Meanwhile, Kiwis were also quick to thank the Prime Minister for her service - specifically leading the country through the Christchurch terror attacks and COVID-19 pandemic. 

"So sad to hear that Jacinda Ardern won't be running for prime minister again come October - she was a shining light for women everywhere," one person said. 

"Best PM we have ever had. Pleased she will get her life back. She deserves all good things, another person said. 

"Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, thank you for your years of service during some very hard times. You have my appreciation, and the appreciation of many others," media Chaplin Frank Ritchie said. 

"Jacinda Ardern has been one of the greatest Prime Ministers in New Zealand's history. Cannot thank her enough for her extraordinary leadership of our country," outgoing Auckland Pride director Max Tweedie said on Twitter. 

"Thank you @jacindaardern for your service to New Zealand during incredibly difficult times. Wish you and your family the best for the future. A bit disappointed Robertson won't run for the leadership," another person added. 

On Thursday the Prime Minister also shared Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson wasn't putting his name forward to lead the party. 

But not everyone was so complimentary with one person taking issue with the timing of her announcement. 

"There has been persistent speculation that Jacinda Ardern would step down. And she denied it to the last.  Not up for the fight and with the economy tanking, she's left Labour in a precarious position," they said.