Jacinda Ardern exit interview: Former Prime Minister on being 'so angry' at March 15 shooter, manifesto

Jacinda Ardern says she was "so angry" after being briefed about the March 15 shooter's manifesto and at his "attempt to other members of our community".

Ardern showed Newshub's Samantha Hayes the notes she made for a speech after being informed of the shootings at two Christchurch mosques on March 15, 2019. Fifty-one people were killed and many others injured when a white supremacist Australian man opened fire.

The Prime Minister was in New Plymouth at the time and had to quickly put together some thoughts for a press conference.

Looking at the notes "just takes me right back to the moment", she told Hayes.

"A small hotel room in New Plymouth with Clarke and Neve, packing up in such a hurry to try and get back [to Parliament]. Just the raw emotion of it all," Ardern said.

Ardern would later make a statement, saying "they are us", referencing the victims of the mosque shootings and their families. It would become a famous phrase which encapsulated Ardern's inclusive response to the tragedy.

"I had said it out loud on the phone to [Finance Minister] Grant Robertson," she said.

"So I remember being briefed about the manifesto and I remember feeling so angry that this individual had thought that they could come over and try and attack a part of our community  and other them."

"I was so angry about his attempt to other members of our community. I remember saying that to Grant, they are us. They are New Zealanders."

Ardern said she didn't consciously write it thinking it would stand out.

Jacinda Ardern exit interview: Former Prime Minister on being 'so angry' at March 15 shooter, manifesto

The manifesto by the Christchurch shooter has been banned in New Zealand "because it promotes and encourages acts of terrorism", the Classification Office says. 

"The document is specifically targeted at people who are already susceptible to its messages, being especially persuasive by use of ironic statements, internet memes and in-jokes that create a sense of community amongst those who share white supremacist views."

Hayes later spoke to Ardern about the toll events like March 15 and the COVID-19 pandemic had on her mental health. 

"When I reflect back on all of those times, I think one of the things I found very grounding was that I was always secondary to the people who had experienced the grief and the trauma of the event itself," Ardern said.

She said people did check in on her and she felt "very well-cared for". But it did have an impact on her personally. 

"Absolutely. I don't think I would be human if it didn't. And probably there is some things that I remember at the time thinking I'll process that and deal with that later."

Jacinda Ardern exit interview: Former Prime Minister on being 'so angry' at March 15 shooter, manifesto

She hasn't had the opportunity to do that yet. There were the shootings on March 15, 2019, then the Whakaari/White Island eruption in December that year, and only a few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was an unrelenting period. But I am okay and I will be okay. That was in large part because I was surrounded by people who supported me to do my job, who looked out for me. I was also aware of the things I needed to do just to make sure that I could keep going as well."

Ardern said people who have been through stressful experiences will know what works for them in terms of getting through it.

"What I feel I would like to leave as a legacy is that people feel they can at least talk about it. They can talk about their experiences, they can talk about the impact it's had on them, that they seek the support they need," she said.

"What did that mean for me? It meant talking about the fact that things were hard, showing emotion and saying that actually at some point there are things that I will spend some time reflecting on. 

"But it was never about me. I'm very conscious of that. Those events and those moments in time they happened to someone else. I was just there in the front row when it did."

Watch Samantha Hayes' full interview with Jacinda Ardern above - including Ardern's reflection on her record as Prime Minister.