New Zealand’s prime minister has returned to the capital as she prepares to jump back from maternity leave into politics.
Jacinda Ardern this week officially ended her six weeks off, during which she gave birth to daughter Neve.
Stepping off her flight at Wellington airport with partner Clarke Gayford and their daughter on Saturday, Ardern was welcomed at the arrival terminal with a cheer from onlookers and an impromptu song from the school choir waiting for her.
Briefly addressing waiting reporters, the prime minister said the family would be spending the next few days preparing New Zealand’s official prime-ministerial residence for a baby.
“I guess [it’s] the first time it’s probably had a little one there. We’ll be pulling together all of the second-hand furniture our friends have passed on to us for Neve,” she said. “It is an old home, but it is a very warm home.”
As Ardern spoke, students from Nayland College in Nelson – waiting for their flight to Melbourne for a music festival – began to sing, later grabbing a photo with the PM.
“We were going to do some busking, but then we saw the prime minister was here,” the school’s head of music, Nigel Weeks, said.
Ardern also said New Zealanders were “hostile” to the views of Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux – two far-right speakers who toured Australia but had to cancel their event across the Tasman.
The controversial Canadians canned their show in Auckland on Friday night after the owners of the private venue they had booked pulled out.
Ardern was asked about Molyneux’s claim New Zealand was “hostile to free speech”.
“I think we’re hostile to their views,” she replied. “They’re here because there were no grounds to block them being here. But that does not mean we welcome their views.
“I think you’ll see from the reaction that they have had from New Zealanders that their views are not those that are shared by this country and I’m quite proud of that.”
The cancellation followed a move by Auckland’s council to not allow the duo to speak at venues it owned on health and safety grounds. That decision prompted a heated debate on free speech in the country.
The pair are known for controversial views on feminism, immigration and Islam and Southern was banned from entering the United Kingdom in March.
She was also initially barred from entering Australia last month but granted access at the last minute. When the pair spoke in Melbourne in July, protesters clashed with riot police.
Ardern this week spoke to media for the first time since giving birth in June, saying she was privileged Gayford was now able to take on the role of full-time dad and travel with Neve.
The couple are trying to maintain a balance between privacy for their daughter and the publicity that would inevitably come with spending time together.
While her family settle into Wellington for the next few weeks, Ardern will be jumping straight back into the rigours of politics on Monday.
The government ship has been reasonably steady during her six-week absence, but it has not been drama-free: business confidence has hit a 10-year-low, nurses have been on strike and tension with Australia over deportations has risen.
And there won’t be room for a run-up. Parliament sits this week, with opposition politicians ready to question the prime minister.
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