Jacinda Ardern led the worshippers out of the whare runanga at Waitangi at about 6.15am today, the dawn service over but the sky still very dark, into the spotlights, out among the thousand or so excited people gathered there. They applauded her, which is not common after a religious service.

"We love you Jacinda!" someone called. She smiled to herself.

"You're better than Obama!"

"Oh ho," said Ardern, turning back, now with a big grin. "Big call!"


Life may never be better for Jacinda Ardern than it is right now. It's all in front of her, and her triumph at Waitangi turned out to be a near-perfect way to pull together all the threads of her ambition: political, cultural, personal.

She's had a remarkably successful first 100 days in office. The progress on matters like mental health, the minimum wage and historic abuse of children in state care meant she could go to Waitangi and talk with credibility about addressing wrongs.


Something has changed at Waitangi
Everyone falls in love with Jacinda Ardern at Waitangi

Her partners in government have both risen to the occasion and are demonstrably relishing their new roles. Her partner at home says he feels like he's won the jackpot – and who doesn't want their partner to say that from time to time?

At her visit to Paihia Primary School on Monday, Ardern introduced Clarke Gayford to the children. "He's a fisherman," she said. "I'm his biggest catch. And no, he didn't have to weigh me."

And she's having a baby. One man hanging around the waka workshop on the Treaty Grounds today explained to me, at some length, that Ardern's pregnancy added such a strong spiritual dimension, you could say it had caused all the aroha, not to mention the sunshine.

In heavenly matters, as has long been proposed, you choose your own reality. And why not? They do the same thing in politics all the time.


All the baby names she's been given, it's a joke now, but it's also a bonding mechanism. Ardern is in thick with the kuia and kaumatua of the North, and that's a splendid thing for everyone they have any care for.

Being asked to bring the placenta back to Waitangi was trickier. Ardern clearly didn't know how to respond. "We'll be talking," she said more than once, and, "I do think some of these things are private."

Throughout her five-day visit to the North people talked to her and about her and their hearts were filled with aroha, but we're a long way from deciding if any part of Ardern's pregnancy and birth should be allowed to remain private.

It was a bishop, I think, in the dawn service, who greeted her, kindly and sly, with the words tena korua. It's what you say when you are speaking to two people.

One of the measures of Ardern's Waitangi triumph was the acclaim that greeted her speech on the Monday. There is a gap between us and we have work to do to close it, she said. And you must hold us to account on that work.

It felt like a breakthrough, not just in relations between government and the mana whenua of the North, but by extension with Maori everywhere. And it was courageous, because progress in alleviating poverty is measurable and failure is easily observable and painfully felt.

Speaking to media a short while later, Ardern denied there was a "closing the gaps" policy, preferring to say they were moving forward with new policies and new programmes.

That's tempering the courage with caution. "Closing the gaps", the slogan of the early Helen Clark years, was weaponised against them by their political opponents, particularly Don Brash. Ardern prefers ideas that have evolved and new language to go with them.

Perhaps an even better measure of her Waitangi triumph came when she got out and mixed with the crowds. The PM? She's here. Look for a slight woman dressed in black, lost in a happy scrum of devotees.

She went to thank the caterers. Can we have a photo? Of course.

"Shotgun in the middle!" shouted one of the waitstaff, who'd worked out where Ardern would be standing. They all rushed to line up.

The bus driver who told his mates he'd said good morning to her as she walked past and she dazzled him with the enthusiasm of her good morning back. He was going to retire now, he was so dazzled.

The teenagers who sidled up and asked her a couple of questions, got their selfie, then ran away leaping in the air with excitement.

And after Waitangi? Now what will she do? To climb so high, so fast, what's next? When she asked for help from Maori, and told them to hold her to account, she wasn't talking just to Maori. We're all in this village, we're all raising the child. It's good for Aotearoa, athough it is going to be hard on the poor little blighter she's carrying.