Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has moved to quell any concerns about the leadership of Winston Peters while she takes six weeks' maternity leave.

But she admits she is not "superhuman" and accepts her child will be growing up in a "fishbowl" of public scutiny.

"I'm not dead; I have not exited from the country; I will just be in Sandringham," Ardern told TV1's Q+A this morning, when asked about the prospect of handing power to her deputy for six weeks.

"He already is the deputy prime minister, and there have been times, of course, when I've been absent and he's taken on that role.


"We have an incredibly good working relationship. I've almost found it's surprising that people have questioned that it would be anything other than business as usual for us because we already work so closely together."

Q+A host Corin Dann asked whether Ardern would be consulted if a political scandal broke during her absence and Peters needed to stand down a Labour minister.

"That's actually a member of my party. And so that becomes both an issue of a ministerial role but also someone who's in the Labour team. And so I would be involved in that, because I wouldn't require someone else to discipline a member of the Labour party."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern does a walk about in Northcote ahead of this week's byelection. Photo / Dean Purcell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern does a walk about in Northcote ahead of this week's byelection. Photo / Dean Purcell

She said the pair already worked collaboratively, consulting each other on important decisions as they arose, and she expected the same to occur while she was on maternity leave.

She said she had no concerns "whatsoever" about Peters assuming the prime ministership temporarily. "And the sense I get from most New Zealanders is that they don't really either."

On her own pending motherhood role, Ardern said there was the "odd moment" when she felt the weight of pressure about her being a role model.

"I actually tend to ignore that from day to day and just get on with doing the job. But when I get a flurry of text messages from media and the likes because they think they've seen a cavalcade heading to Auckland Airport, it makes me realise that there's at least a lot of interest and there's eyes on it.

"For the record, I would never take a cavalcade to the hospital. I'll just travel in my normal vehicle like everyone else."


She did not want to create a false impression that all women should be superhuman or superwomen.

"That I'm able to do what I'm doing because I have enormous support around me, and actually, that makes me quite privileged. So I wouldn't want to be held up as some kind of exemplar because it's not easy, and I'm lucky."

Asked how she felt about the public gaze and the fact her family's life would be lived in a fishbowl, she replied: "I think that's just one of the things that we've had to accept, and actually, that's an extension of life, generally, now.

"We know that we are watched, and we do our best just to be true to ourselves. But we know that that will happen to us for parenting as well. As long as the judgement falls on me more than my child, that's what I hope for the most.

"You just make it work. And no matter what, we'll just make it work."

She said she was "desperate to demonstrate that I'm not going to let the country down" and stay true to her role.

"But at the same time, there's this motherly side of New Zealand that is coming out where I've been getting these spontaneous messages from complete strangers saying, 'We get it now, but you're also allowed to sit down'. And so that sentiment has been lovely. And so I guess my message would be I can assure people I will keep doing my job, but I also acknowledge I'm not superhuman."