I join with many others in paying tribute to Ms Jacinda Ardern who has resigned as Prime Minister of New Zealand.
In just over five years in office Ms Ardern consolidated New Zealand’s relationships with Fiji and other island states. This came at a time when the Pacific was becoming increasingly important in international affairs.
Ms Ardern’s charisma and humility gave her a natural empathy with Pacific islanders. On an official visit to Fiji in 2020 Ms Ardern made an instant impression.
At a function for the Women’s Crisis Centre’s new office in Nadi she surprised and endeared herself to a group of shy Fijian women when she took on the role of tea lady. As the New Zealand Prime Minister served them she gave an assurance that she was used to it and did it all the time at home in New Zealand.
Ms Ardern was in Fiji again last year for the 51st meeting of leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad has already publicly thanked Ms Ardern for New Zealand’s assistance to Fiji during her time of leadership.
He mentioned in particular urgent and timely help for the Fijian people during national disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic.
When we were coming to grips with forming a government in December, Ms Ardern offered New Zealand’s assistance to facilitate the democratic process, if this was needed.
I personally appreciated this gesture.
I admire Ms Ardern’s recognition that for her the time had come to hand over the burden of the prime ministerial office.
She will be remembered in Fiji and the Pacific with utmost respect and admiration.
Our Government looks forward to forging a strong relationship with Mr Chris Hipkins who is set to become Ms Ardern’s successor as Prime Minister.
I will be writing a formal letter to him.