Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will stand down on February 7.
She said she had hoped to find the energy and heart to continue in the role over summer, “but I have not been able to do that”.
The two-term PM said she had reflected on her own future. “This has been the most fulfilling five and a half years of my life,” Ardern said.
She made the announcement choking back tears.
A caucus vote will occur on Sunday for a new Party leader - and new Prime Minister.
Grant Robertson told Ardern he would not be putting his name forward to be leader of the Labour Party - and new PM.
Labour had taken the decision to choose a new leader within three days, Ardern said.
The PM said her team were well placed to take the country forward and contest the next election.
“I am not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election but because I believe we can and will.”
She said there was no secret scandal behind her resignation. “I am human. We give as much as we can for as long as we can and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.
“I am leaving because with such a privileged job comes a big responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead - and also when you’re not.”
Ardern said she had the support of her family to continue - but they had also supported her decision.
Ardern said she was not leaving because it was hard.
“I know when I have enough left in the tank to do it justice. I would be doing a disservice to New Zealanders to continue.”
Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford was in the room for the press conference.
“To Neve, mum is looking forward to being there when you start school this year. And to Clarke, let’s get married.”
She had not yet told Neve: “4-year-olds are chatty - couldn’t take the risk.”
Ardern said caucus was surprised when she told them, but they understood.
“If I don’t have what it takes, I need to let someone else take on this job,” she said.
They could see she had given everything and did not begrudge her decision.
“As someone who always tried to be kind,” is how she would like New Zealanders to remember her.
Ardern would stay as an MP of Mt Albert until April to avoid the need for a byelection. She had no plans beyond that as yet, and was looking forward to spending more time with her family.
Ardern said one of her great privileges was working with Māori. She recalled a marae in Rotorua, being welcomed with a pōhiri and the weight of the job hit her.
She said she felt the Government had made progress in working with Māori.
Ardern said Labour was the party that had the policies to support New Zealanders. The country had one of the world’s strongest economies despite headwinds.
She said she believed Labour had the policies to get the support to win the election, they just needed the right leader.
Asked if there was a specific time when she made the decision, Ardern said near the end of the year she knew she needed the summer to see if she had what it takes to continue.
“Once I realised that I didn’t, I knew unfortunately there was not much alternative other than to hand over now.”
She gave some thought about if she could end the term, but the system did not allow for that.
Asked the traits to make a good prime minister, Ardern said the top of the list was “empathy”.
“Unless you can work to comprehend the experience of others it is very hard to deliver solutions and respond to crises without that starting point. That has been a really important principle for me.
“If you ask someone of my generation what they believe a politician to be and to name some of the traits, I doubt they would list kindness, doubt they would list empathy. But I hope the next generation does.”
Asked her top moments, Ardern mentioned climate change.
“Moments where I have just felt so proud. Standing in Parliament speaking on zero carbon legislation, making the change to our public holidays to bring in Matariki, standing in pōhiri on marae and seeing that we are making progress and taking on some big challenges head on. Seeing we are making progress on child poverty. Those have all been incredibly important, I couldn’t list one.”
It was not only about the challenges, but the progress, she said.
Asked about attending Waitangi on February 6 and Rātana on the coming Tuesday, Ardern said she had not finalised plans.
Deputy PM Robertson put out a statement outlining reasons for not putting his name forward to contest the leadership position.
“I am not putting myself forward to be a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party,” the statement read.
“In 2014 when I failed to secure the leadership of the party for the second time I indicated that I would not put myself forward again.
“My position has not changed. I have been a close up witness to the extraordinary work that Jacinda has done as leader and Prime Minister.”
Jacinda Ardern’s full statement
Being Prime Minister has been the greatest honour of my life and I want to thank New Zealanders for the enormous privilege of leading the country for the last five and a half years,” Jacinda Ardern said.
”With holding such a privileged role comes responsibility, including the responsibility to know when you’re the right person to lead, and also when you’re not.
”I have given my absolute all to being Prime Minister but it has also taken a lot out of me. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that inevitably come along.
”Having reflected over summer I know I no longer have that bit extra in the tank to do the job justice. It’s that simple.
”I have spoken to the Governor-General this morning to let her know.
”In addition to our ambitious agenda that has sought to address long term issues like the housing crisis, child poverty and climate change, we also had to respond to a major biosecurity incursion, a domestic terror attack, a volcanic eruption and a one in one hundred year global pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. The decisions that had to be made have been constant and weighty.
”I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved over the last five years in spite of the many challenges thrown at us. We’ve turned around child poverty statistics and made the most significant increases in welfare support and public housing stock seen in many decades.
“We’ve made it easier to access education and training while improving the pay and conditions of workers. And we’ve worked hard to make progress on issues around our national identify - I believe that teaching our history in schools and celebrating Matariki as our own indigenous national holiday will all make a difference for years to come.
”And we’ve done that while responding to some of the biggest threats to the health and economic wellbeing of New Zealanders, arguably since World War Two.
”The Labour team are incredibly well placed to contest the next election. They are the most experienced team in the country and have shown they have the skills necessary to respond to whatever comes their way.
”I’m not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election, but because I believe Labour can and will win it. We need a fresh set of shoulders for the challenges of both this year and the next three.
”As to my time in the job, I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader - one who knows when it’s time to go.”
Election date announced
Ardern also announced this year’s election will be on Saturday, October 14.
The PM announced the date at the Labour Party caucus retreat at Napier.
Ardern also ordered her ministers to consider which reform areas should be the priorities for the year over the summer - and which should be scrapped as Labour moves to try to wipe some controversial policies off its plate.
The first Cabinet meeting of the year will be next Wednesday, after MPs visit Rātana on Tuesday.
The Labour caucus is in Napier, where National is also having its caucus retreat 2km away. Media are usually invited in for Ardern’s opening remarks to the caucus - but this year the venue was closed to media until before her standup. MPs discussed election strategies in the morning session.
That was prompted by concerns the venue was not soundproof, and the party did not want the discussions overheard.
This morning National Party leader Christopher Luxon unveiled his reshuffle, including significant promotions for both former leaders Judith Collins and Todd Muller.
Muller has been promoted into the shadow Cabinet and secured the agriculture portfolio and climate change. Judith Collins has been promoted to the front bench - at 10. She was previously at the tail end of the shadow Cabinet, and has announced her intention to stand again in 2023, getting re-selected as the candidate in her Papakura seat.
Luxon’s fellow first-term MP Penny Simmons has also squeaked into the shadow Cabinet at 20.
Labour’s retreat will wind up with a dinner tonight while National has a second day of meetings tomorrow.