"One day this young girl came into our shop with a CV looking for work, and her name was Jacinda Ardern."

She's now a household name around the world. But in the small Waikato town of Morrinsville, she's remembered as a young girl who went to the local school and worked at the fish and chip shop.

Golden Kiwi fish and chip shop owner, Grant Covich is proud of his former employee.

"She rung me one day, and she said 'Grant, how are ya?" and I said, 'who's this?' and she said, 'it's Jacinda, Jacinda Ardern.'

"I said, 'where are you ringing from?' She said 'the Beehive!'

"All of a sudden she became Prime Minister of New Zealand, and how many people can go around and say, the Prime Minister used to work for me."

It's a similar story down the road at Morrinsville College.


"I post on my wall, articles that I find about her, and she always looks so gorgeous and glamorous."

Teacher, Jacqui Fitzgerald taught English to the young Ardern 20 years ago.

She couldn't be prouder, as Ardern continues to attract international acclaim for her handling of the Christchurch terrorist attack.

"She's always been like that and it's just the way she is," Jacqui said. "It's her temperament. Yeah, she's the Prime Minister, but she's also Jacinda."

Even at an early age, it was clear that she was destined for politics. At the high school Ardern led a campaign calling for female students to be given the right to wear trousers.

"To get the Board of Trustees to change the uniform… it takes a pretty major case to put to them, for that to happen. And she did that."

Fish and chips proved harder to handle. Ardern spent four years working at the Golden Kiwi but as Grant remembers, it didn't start well.

"She struggled a little bit to wrap fish and chips but her mother coached her at home with a cabbage!"

To many in this small Waikato town, Ardern is a local hero but there are still some doubters.

"Some will give me a little dig, like 'you better tell that sheila that used to work for you, we are not to happy about that'. I say, 'why don't you ring her yourself?'"

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