The Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce held an exclusive luncheon with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier this month.
This was the third luncheon of its kind for The Chamber, with previous events fronted by Winston Peters and John Key. It was fitting the event was held the day before International Women’s Day. Jacinda captured the attention of around 660 members and non-members of The Chamber at the Air Force Museum in Wigram.
“What a crowd,” Jacinda said as she commenced her speech, commending Christchurch’s growth and spirit “in spite of the hurdles”.She praised our newest buildings, such as the central library and the “beautifully refurbished” Town Hall, said she was “jealous” of her partner Clarke Gayford enjoying the Shapeshifter performance last week and assured our awaited new stadium “will have a roof” to watch the Crusaders in comfort during winter.
She covered most poignant topics including export, and a fairer tax system, transitioning to a “clean green carbon-neutral New Zealand” and being ready for a global economic downturn. Wellbeing and mental health are top priority for the budget, noting the repercussions of both for the business world.
Chamber of Commerce CEO Leann Watson says she was pleased Jacinda confirmed her commitment to Christchurch is still a priority, including our anchor projects, and commitment to tourism and trade relationships.
The annual event was sponsored by the Christchurch Casino. CEO Brett Anderson says it was the best speech he had heard from her. “She didn’t avoid any issues and spoke what was on everyone’s minds.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just celebrated one year in the country’s top role, so Metropol caught up with her about rolling with the punches, the Christchurch rebuild and the joy of motherhood.
What has your first year in office taught you?
Patience and gratitude. Everything takes longer than you’d like but every day I am grateful for the opportunity to be doing such important work.
If your daughter Neve went into politics, what advice would you give her?
Long pause… Well, I hope by the time she’s old enough it will be a slightly kinder place! I’d tell her to follow her heart.
How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
I don’t stress as much as I used to. I still feel enormous pressure to not let people down, but I’ve learned to roll with the punches more than I did. There will always be tough decisions to make and I know I’ll be criticised for some of those, but I’m here to do the best I can and that’s what I’ll continue to do.
If you weren’t in politics what else would you like to do?
Telling stories, in some form. More than likely doing something on behalf of kids too.
The greatest Prime Minister (living or dead) in your opinion is/was….. and why?
Michael Joseph Savage – he left a legacy that lasts to this day in the form of housing and support.
What are your thoughts around the rebuild of Christchurch?
There seems to be a real sense of optimism and excitement in Christchurch at the moment and it’s fantastic to see. We’ve had the opening of the new central library to rave reviews, we’ve been able to confirm funding for the new stadium, the convention centre is underway and we’ve fixed a $70 million budget blowout in the Metro Sports Facility and got that project back on track.
But I know the recovery of a city is about more than just bricks and mortar. It’s about people, so we’ve also prioritised mental health support in Canterbury schools to ensure every child can have access to a mental health worker and we’re reforming EQC and providing more services to speed up getting people’s insurance claims solved.
If you had one wish what would it be?
That everyone has something to do, somewhere to live, someone to love and something to hope for.
You’ve met a lot of celebrities in your role as Prime Minister. Who was your favourite and why?
Honestly? The kids I meet at schools around the country would be my favourites, hands down.
The tides of gender roles have been changing recently
Perhaps best illustrated by an off-hand comment by Pippa Wetzell’s seven-year-old. “Mum, can a boy be Prime Minister?” he asked her soon after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had given birth to her first child, Neve.
And, although Pippa’s reply “Absolutely, boys can do anything girls can do” is, at face value, accurate, it has always been equally as accurate in reverse. Because although until now, women have generally been physically and mentally ‘capable’ of doing anything men can do, fact is, they haven’t been ‘able’ to.
If you’re still wondering what the big deal is about the Prime Minister giving birth while in office, then I’m glad. I’m glad because of what that means for New Zealand as a country.
Globally there are very few women in power and fewer yet of childbearing age. It has been almost 30 years since Pakistan’s then leader, Benazir Bhutto gave birth to her daughter Bakhtawar. She was the only modern head of government to give birth while in office, until now.
As we celebrate the 125 year anniversary of Kate Sheppard’s pioneering women’s suffrage movement successfully campaigning for women to get the right to vote at a time when no other country had done so, we’re now onto our third female Prime Minister.
Does that make us unique? Does that make us special? Does that make us extraordinary? It does, but perhaps not in the eyes of Pippa’s son’s generation after all, they’re growing up in a country where it’s normal for a woman to be in power.