Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended New Zealand after CNN's Christiane Amanpour said she was amazed at the "incredible sexism" Ardern had faced at home as a new mother and Prime Minister.

Ardern appeared on Amanpour's CNN show today in New York and was questioned about being a mother, her views on Trump - and New Zealand being a bolthole "Doomsday refuge" for American billionaires.

Amanpour said she had been "amazed" at the "incredible sexism" by some media in New Zealand, which seemed to question whether a mother could be Prime Minister, or a pregnant woman do the job, or talk about issues such as trade, refugees and climate change.

Amanpour said that seemed incredible for a country which was the first in the world to give women the vote.

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Ardern defended New Zealand, saying she would classify it as "incredibly progressive". "I am the third female Prime Minister. I never, ever grew up as young woman believing that my gender would stand in the way of me being able to do whatever I wanted. And I credit New Zealand for that."

She said many New Zealanders also had to be credited for welcoming that she had had a child in office. "The positivity far outweighed any negativity."

Ardern said a country's leaders should be open to criticism and challenge. "It means we have a robust democracy. But it becomes very tricky if you ever try and partition off what might be seen as sexist criticism. So I just don't engage."

She said the best way to rebel against that was to be competent "and good at my job".

In the US, Ardern has been labelled a "feminist hero" for working women after photos of her and baby Neve at the General Assembly were picked up by media worldwide.

Ardern said she had not known Neve was on the floor of the General Assembly until she returned from the podium after speaking in the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit.

Amanpour and Ardern.
Amanpour and Ardern.

Ardern said it was the norm for working mothers re-entering the workforce, but when it came to world leaders, having a baby in office was rare. "I hope there will be a day when it isn't worthy of comment."

She said she hoped to help normalise it and make workplaces more open.

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"I hope that in part, just by being a first and being more open, which I accept brings vulnerability, by being more open it might create a path for other women."

Ardern said the traditional view of politics was that politicians had to be ruthless and egotistical. "I am determined to do things differently."

Ardern's role as a mother and female leader took up half the 12-minute-long interview, before Amanpour moved on to talk about issues such as climate change and refugees.

Ardern spoke about the difficulties faced by the Pacific Islands as a result of climate change. She said she did not accept it was a lost battle, and did not believe that simply conceding some countries would eventually be lost to rising sea levels was the answer.

"They want us to fight to try and reverse what we are seeing."

Amanpour also referred to Ardern's recent announcement that New Zealand would increase its refugee quota to 1500, noting it came at the same time countries such as the US and others were lowering their caps.

Asked for her view on US President Donald Trump's policies in areas such as refugees and climate change, Ardern instead answered more generally saying there was a sense of growing insecurity in many countries.

She said globalisation had changed the experiences of workers across the world "and we have to challenge ourselves and say, 'did we respond adequately to that?' And in large part, the answer has been no."

"The response doesn't have to be isolationism. It can be as a trading nation, continuing to take a multilateral approach, and that is the approach we take."

WHERE IS NEW ZEALAND?

Christiane Amanpour observed there was a rising awareness of New Zealand in the USA, not least because it was a "doomsday refuge" for billionaires such as Peter Thiel.

Ardern said she had heard of the doomsday refuge theory - but pointed out that it might not be so easy for them now the Government had tightened up on foreign property ownership to ban foreigners buying residential property.

"We are a country that welcomes foreign investment into our productive economy. We want it to be of genuine benefit to New Zealand, we want to grow jobs off the back of that investment."

Ardern observed that there were a lot of maps on which New Zealand was missing. "It's actually a real problem. We've had a campaign around it. There are maps where we are missing."