14 Feb 2023

Dad proud, relieved at Jacinda Ardern's decision to relinquish PM role

3:35 pm on 14 February 2023
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 26:  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs her father Ross Ardern at Parliament following a swearing-in ceremony at Government House on October 26, 2017 in Wellington, New Zealand. After failing to win an outright majority in the general election on September 23, Labour entered into a coalition agreement with the New Zealand First and Greens parties.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Jacinda Ardern hugs her father, Ross Ardern, after she was sworn in as prime minister in October 2017. Photo: Getty Images / Hagen Hopkins

The former administrator of Tokelau, Ross Ardern, is pleased his daughter also has 'former' in front of her title.

"I'm looking at the window, because my daughter and granddaughter are coming to see us this weekend, she would never have been able to do that," Ross Ardern said.

Speaking to Tokelauans in his thank you message via Zoom he asked everyone to listen to his daughter's maiden speech where she said: "Give me the courage to leave if I run out of oompf".

"And that's exactly what she did. Her tank was empty, as she put it."

Ross Ardern said he was a proud dad.

"We were the proudest parents in the world when she became the prime minister of New Zealand."

Laurell and Ross Ardern speak to media about Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford's baby girl.

Photo: RNZ / Pete Archibald

He called her decision to step down a courageous one.

"We didn't shed too many tears of sadness. We felt encouraged by her, we felt for her," he said.

He said his daughter was always interested in what was happening in Tokelau.

"Jacinda worked hard for Tokelau at the highest level.

"If I was in Wellington, staying at Premier House, she would ask me, 'And how are things in Tokelau?' and 'How are the people of Tokelau?'.

"She was always interested in what was happening on the atolls and I think that will remain forever."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is greeted by her father Ross Ardern, the High Commissioner.

Jacinda Ardern greets her father during a visit to Tokelau while she was prime minister. Photo: Pool photo / Michael Craig / New Zealand Herald

Visiting Tokelau was not a privilege that everybody got to enjoy, he said.

"She has told me that it was one of the rare privileges of her position as prime minister, to be able to go to Tokelau, see what Tokelau was about.

"And to be able to encourage and enthuse the people of Tokelau to continue to survive with their culture intact, and their language intact, and be able to bring up their children in a manner that their forebears would be pleased with and enthused about.

"She has a great deal of time for Tokelau as she does with Niue."

Tokelau is a realm nation of New Zealand but the New Zealand government says it respects the traditional governance structures that are "integral to community life in Tokelau".

Waiting for boats to bring in their catches

People wait to bring in their catches on Tokelau. Photo: Elena Pasilio

Pathway to self-governance on the horizon

Village leaders in Tokelau are set to discuss a pathway to self-governance following the national election.

The general manager of the Office of Tokelau, Tino Vitale, said following the election the new government would need to work through a plan to mark the 100-year anniversary of Tokelau being governed by New Zealand.

"The conversation, it's already been approved by the General Fono to start in the villages," Vitale said.

That would be one of the areas also that the new government will be looking at, given the 2026 anniversary was close.

"So that conversation may become a priority in the next three years."

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