Jacinda Ardern’s salary will be slashed by nearly two-thirds, with the annual rate dropping more than $300,000 after she resigned as Prime Minister and reverted to a backbench MP.
But it is not the only change to her political working life. Making way for “my friend Chippy” - Chris Hipkins - in the ninth floor of the Beehive means she will now have an office among other Labour MPs in Parliament, where she started back in 2008.
Ardern formally resigned as Prime Minister on Wednesday. She will remain the MP for Mt Albert until April, meaning there will be no requirement for a byelection ahead of the general election on October 14 as it is within six months.
This means Ardern’s annual salary drops from the prime ministerial salary of $471,049 to $163,961, the base rate for an MP, which she will receive until she resigns.
If she stayed on as an MP until the election she would have continued to receive her salary three months after the election, as with other retiring MPs.
Her five and a half years in the top job, however, mean she’s also entitled to a range of perks, some of which she’ll receive for the rest of her life.
Ardern, like others who’ve served more than two years as Prime Minister, is eligible to receive up to $57,000 per year.
Former prime ministers are offered $11,400 for each complete year they hold the office or a maximum of $57,000, whichever is less.
The Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Services) Act 2013 holds that after a former prime minister dies, the surviving spouse or partner can be paid the annuity at half that yearly rate.
There are also travel perks for those who leave the office, as well as for their partners.
Former prime ministers may be paid for scheduled travel within New Zealand if it is for the purpose of fulfilling commitments related to their role as a former PM - but not for private business purposes or employment purposes. The same is offered to a spouse or partner.
They can also travel by chauffeur-driven car if one is available from VIP Transport Service under the same conditions.
The former prime minister, and their partner, may have the use of a self-drive car that gets replaced every 60,000 kilometres.
It’s previously been reported that perks for the growing number of former prime ministers were costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, prompting calls for the axing of their privileges.
Figures released under the Official Information Act in 2019 showed more than $3.7 million in travel perks and annuities had been paid to former prime ministers, Governors-General and their surviving spouses over the previous five years.
Ardern will, meanwhile, while away her remaining time until she leaves in April in an office outside the Beehive with normal MPs.
Many questions have also been asked since her resignation over security she might need, given the unprecedented level and severity of abuse she faced in the role, especially in the latter stages.
Security and disinformation experts spoken to by the Herald said there would be cause to maintain protection for Ardern into the future.
Police make such an assessment on whether or not she still needs security detail – they do not comment on their arrangements, but it is likely she will have at least some security with her for some time still until they decide she is no longer at risk.
The Prime Minister’s staff automatically lose their jobs if there is a change, as do those in ministers’ offices when the minister loses a role or their position.
Hipkins will inherit some of Ardern’s staff – the big appointment he will have to make is his chief of staff.
Ardern’s Raj Nahna has opted to leave and will do so in a few weeks, His deputy, Holly Donald, has agreed to stay a bit longer for the transition but also intends to leave in the next few months.
Ardern’s chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell,will stay on as Hipkin’s chief press secretary with Hipkins’ own press secretary Richard Trow moving in under him.
Some of Ardern’s advisers will leave, others will go. Her senior private secretary Le Roy Taylor has gone with Ardern as her executive assistant as a backbench MP. Taylor was renowned for making sausage rolls to fuel the PM and her inner circle at times of crisis – until Ardern started worrying about their health. It is almost a shame Taylor will not be there for the biggest sausage roll fan among them, Hipkins.
Staff in the offices of Hipkins, Deputy PM Carmel Sepuloni and former deputy PM Grant Robertson will also be in the same position although most will be re-employed.