Baby carers funded only in ‘exceptional circumstances’ — PM will pay for Clarke.

The rules for ministers travelling overseas have been expanded to allow the Prime Minister or a minister with a baby to take a nanny or other carer at the taxpayer's cost - but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the taxpayer will not be expected to pay for both her partner and a carer for baby Neve.

Ardern heads to New York with partner Clarke Gayford and Neve on Saturday, but said she was paying for Gayford's flights herself because there were not many engagements for partners on the trip.

"There is no spousal programme for this, so we just made a judgment call that we would cover his travel for this trip. He will be going to some things, but he's primarily travelling to care for Neve."

The Herald has learned that after Ardern became Prime Minister, the guidelines for ministers' overseas travel set by the Cabinet Office were reviewed and changed.


They now allow a minister with a young infant to take someone other than a partner to care for that child or for a minister with a disability to take a support person if needed.

Ardern said she had not sought the change for parents of babies and did not intend to use the extra entitlement herself. She would only allow it for other ministers in "exceptional circumstances."

The Prime Minister signs off on all ministerial travel overseas, other than to Australia, including deciding whether partners can travel with ministers and who pays for them.

Other ministers with young babies include the Green Party's Julie Anne Genter and Education Minister Chris Hipkins, whose partner had a second child this week, who is on parental leave for up to a month.

She said she did not expect to have travel with more than one person, but if there was a situation which required both Gayford and another carer for Neve she would pay for that extra person out of her own pocket.

The Prime Minister, her partner Clarke Gayford and baby Neve arrive back in Wellington.

Ardern said she did not yet know whether she would take Neve to any events in New York.

"We are playing it by ear. There is no set plan, it's just whether or not she's getting enough sleep, where I am for feeds. They might be with us a lot, they might just be in the hotel.

"It depends what the jet lag does to them both. She's a good sleeper and we don't know whether that will mean she ends up sleeping a lot in the day rather than the night."


In New York, Ardern is also staying in apartment-type accommodation rather than the usual hotel because basic kitchen facilities were needed for Neve.

Ardern said it meant she had to be further away from the UN, but she had made sure it did not cost more than was usual.

Accommodation in New York during the Leaders' Week for the UN General Assembly is very costly - most rooms near the UN are more than double their usual rates.

Each Prime Minister sets their own expectations for ministers' overseas travel.

Former Prime Minister John Key always paid for his wife Bronagh's travel and his children when they travelled with him. He had also told his ministers to leave their partners at home or pay for the travel themselves.

His successor Bill English did take wife Mary English overseas with him on the taxpayer.

He said he did not expect his ministers to take partners overseas, but would consider it on a case by case basis. Ardern said she intended to take a similar approach.

The taxpayer did pay for Gayford's travel to Europe for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in May, but that had included an extensive spousal programme.

Clarke Gayford (kneeling) on the spouses' programme at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, April. Photo / supplied
Clarke Gayford (kneeling) on the spouses' programme at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, April. Photo / supplied

Since becoming Prime Minister, Ardern has been sensitive about costs including freezing MPs' pay while the process of setting it was reviewed and telling ministers to be careful with their Crown limo costs, including sharing where possible.

National Party leader Simon Bridges was also criticised for racking up about $80,000 on Crown limos during his provincial roadshow.

Ardern was criticised by some for flying to Nauru for the Pacific Islands Forum in the Air Force Boeing two days after the main delegation because Neve could not go and she could only attend for a day.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister also confirmed Neve, who will fly to the United States in a bassinet in Air New Zealand's Business Premier class before transferring to a United flight for the final leg to New York, will travel on a diplomatic passport.

The baby is among 123 Kiwi kids issued with a diplomatic passport in the last 14 months. There were 635 adult diplomatic passports issued over the same period.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said diplomatic passports were issued for specific official purposes, such as where the holder is eligible for diplomatic or consular status.

A child might be issued a diplomatic passport as a function of their parent's eligibility for a diplomatic passport.

Clarke and Neve's Big Apple adventure

Kiwis Kieran Nash and Jacqui Smith live in New York with their kids Vivienne, 4 months and Louis, 3. Photo / Supplied
Kiwis Kieran Nash and Jacqui Smith live in New York with their kids Vivienne, 4 months and Louis, 3. Photo / Supplied

Former Aucklander Jacqui Smith moved to New York with her husband Kieran Nash and baby son, Louis, two and a half years ago. The family has since grown to include 4-month-old daughter Vivienne.

The freelance copywriter shared her top tips for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's partner Clarke Gayford and the couple's daughter, 3-month-old Neve, ahead of their week in the Big Apple while the Prime Minister is at the United Nations.

Drag Queen Story Time

Rev. Yolanda, a singer/songwriter/trans-femme genderqueer performance artist and interfaith minister, is reading books banned for telling LGBTQ stories at Brooklyn Public Library on Wednesday

Pub sing-along

Tons of options but Smith's pick is Happy Baby Sing and Play with musician Carl Banks - playlist ranging from Willie Nelson covers to The Wheels on the Bus - at the Cobra Club in Bushwick Tuesdays.

Satirical puppet show

Puppetsburg describes itself as "edgy babytainment for the new generation of parents", fun for kids and plenty of satire for adults. There's a drop-in show in Brooklyn Monday.

Stroll your way to knowledge

The Whitney Museum of American Art is stroller friendly and next to The High Line - a 2.3km park created on a former New York Central Railroad spur.

The Museum of Modern Art's Claude Monet collection is calming for babies, Smith said, but The Metropolitan Museum of Art is best avoided - too echoey.

Open air fun

The 96-year-old restored Jane's Carousel at Brooklyn Bridge Park can be reached via a ferry near the United Nations.

Washington Park, near New York University's music school, is great for buskers and Central Park's performers will always "ham it up for the babies".


Travel light, avoid peak foot traffic and park benches are cleaner options for changing bums than "filthy" change tables, Smith said.

Babies ride free on public transport, but you'll have to tell people to give up their seat.

Lilia, in Williamsburg, is one of the best restaurants in New York and allows prams at the table.