When Labour leader Jacinda Ardern stood after being anointed Prime Minister by NZ First leader Winston Peters, her first promise was to "govern for all New Zealanders".

It was a pledge former Prime Minister John Key also made after he was first elected in 2008 and again when he was elected to a third term. The quote was frequently used against him by the Opposition to highlight shortcomings.

It is effectively an acknowledgement not everybody will be happy about the new government - and a promise those who had not voted for them would not be neglected.

Election campaigns by their nature are divisive affairs - and 2017 was no exception.


Politically New Zealand was split almost evenly between left and right, change and certainty.

There was a generational divide - Ardern's campaign was as the voice of younger generations rather than the older.

There was also the much talked about rural-urban divide, which whether justified or not, was keenly felt by those on the rural side of things.

Now Ardern must set about trying to heal those divides.

Her former boss and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has described Ardern as "charming and genuine" with an equanimity that belied her age.

All of that will be needed.

Andrew McGiven is a Te Aroha farmer and one of the organisers of the infamous farmers' protest rally in Ardern's childhood hometown of Morrinsville during the campaign.

That was sparked by Labour policies such as a water tax, including agriculture in the emissions trading scheme, and the Green Party's proposal for a nitrates tax and call to limit stock numbers.

Ardern avoided meeting farmer groups during the campaign but did promise to do so if she was Prime Minister.

McGiven said it was in the interest of farmers to have a good relationship with the governing party and he hoped Ardern would follow through on that promise as soon as possible.

"I still believe farming has an important part to play in this country and its economy and it would be a great show of faith with her and her caucus to meet with farming leaders as soon as possible to see what common ground we have and how we can move forward."

Although the water levy may be abandoned at the behest of NZ First, there was still concern about trade agreements such as TPP, and economic and environmental policy.

Policy concessions to the Greens included "support for a shift in farming to more sustainable land use" and stronger regulations for water quality care as well as winding down government support for irrigation.

On trade agreements, McGiven did not believe the Government should deny exporters access to other countries for the sake of two fairly minor policy areas such as a ban on foreign buyers.

Asked if he trusted Ardern, he said he did not know her.

"I'll take a wait and see approach on that."

He said it was some reassurance that NZ First was in the coalition, given its emphasis on regional policies. "It's some reassurance there is some diversity of experience in the new coalition which will be a little bit more farmer-focused and rural-focused I hope.

"But it is a wait and see approach at the moment."

However while NZ First was a reassurance in one way, he was not overly keen on proposals to ban sales of farmland to foreign buyers.

Former Labour MP and Ardern mentor Annette King says the urban-rural divide was overhyped for political purposes and Ardern would move quickly to try to dispel it.

"She'll be very keen to dispel the myth that there is a country-city divide, that this will be a government that is interested in all people - all New Zealanders.

"She will be very keen to bring that together. If she made a promise to meet with them, she will meet with them. She follows through on what she says."

Although Ardern was the youngest member of Labour's caucus in 2017 when she became leader, King said she had not stinted from leading.

"I feel a bit sad that sometimes people undermine her abilities because one, she is young, two she is attractive and three she is a woman. Those things are irrelevant. It's the way she operates."

Her leadership style was a mix of delegation and being hands-on.

"She leads from the front when she has to. I've sat and watched her, I've been on the campaign trail with her. She listens, takes advice and makes a decision. She doesn't dither around and go for another round of consultation and another round of angsting."

There were some who believed Peters could have been put off by Ardern's lack of experience when deciding between National and Labour. King had been at Ardern's side during those negotiations.

Asked how Ardern won him over, King said Ardern had showed her mettle.

"She was negotiating with our longest serving member of Parliament, and with James [Shaw] who was a personal friend of hers and she was able to hold all those balls in the air at the same time and pull them together at the end. It was an amazing feat."

Ardern's style of leadership was also the subject of admiration from former National MP Wayne Mapp.

In a column for The Spinoff, Mapp said now she was in the role he believed she would likely stay there for a long time - and the divisions would all but disappear.

"People, both those who voted for her and those who didn't, will be excited at the prospect of the new.

"Prime Ministers can embody the spirit of a nation. Jacinda Ardern will convey a sense of New Zealand as a dynamic young country where interesting things can happen."

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger knows all about becoming Prime Minister in a divided society from his time as Prime Minister after 1990 - immediately after the Rogernomics years.

The divisions of 2017 are nothing like that - but Bolger said Ardern would have to be careful about those at hand.

"Every election has created divisions, and Jacinda's done it and Winston's done it and the Greens have done it. That's inevitable. But what the leaders now must do is reach across those divisions. It's an essential component of a successful government."

His advice to her was not to hark back to a past that never really existed and instead look to the future.

As for the man who had made her Prime Minister - Winston Peters - Bolger said as soon as Peters put Ardern into the post he had become almost irrelevant. "He will find that out very quickly."