New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been welcomed back to work with a heartfelt and touching serenade by a travelling school choir in the arrivals terminal of Wellington airport.
Holding her six-week-old baby daughter and supported by husband Clarke Gayford beside her, Ms Ardern was all smiles as she gently rocked her sleeping baby to an impromptu performance by Nelson’s Nayland College school choir on Saturday morning.
They performed a ‘waiata’, a culturally significant set of Maori songs which include lullabies and laments.
“You made her sleep, so thank you. That was beautiful,” she told the choir after speaking to waiting media.
The choir later posted on Twitter that singing for the Prime Minister “and baby Neve” was a great start before a planned music tour to Melbourne.
Speaking to reporters as the choir performed, Ms Ardern said her first priority was to prepare Premier House – New Zealand’s official prime-ministerial residence – for a baby, collecting “second-hand furniture” from friends to create a family home over the weekend.
“It is an old home, but it is a very warm home,” she said of her official residence.
She even admitted receiving a “second-hand cot” from a friend to help set up Neve’s room on Saturday afternoon.
“I guess [it’s] the first time it’s probably had a little one there. We’ll be pulling together all of the second-hand furniture our friends have passed onto us for Neve,” she said.
As Ms Ardern spoke, the serenading students, waiting for their flight to Melbourne for a music festival, began to sing, later stealing a group photo with the PM.
The school’s head of music, Nigel Weeks, said: “We were going to do some busking, but then we saw the Prime Minister was here.”
Ms Ardern and Mr Gayford last spoke to the media on June 24, three days after Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford – or Neve Gayford – was born at Auckland Hospital on June 21.
“When we met her we thought she looked like she suited the name,” the 37-year-old PM told reporters at the time.
Aroha in Maori means “love”, while Te Aroha is also the name of a mountain near Ms Ardern’s family home.
“Also it means, in various forms, bright and radiant and snow, which seemed like a good combination for Matariki (Maori new year) and for solstice.”
Welcome to our village wee one. Feeling very lucky to have a healthy baby girl that arrived at 4.45pm weighing 3.31kg (7.3lb) Thank you so much for your best wishes and your kindness. We’re all doing really well thanks to the wonderful team at Auckland City Hospital.
A post shared by Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) on
Meanwhile, the country’s first couple is now trying to maintain a balance between privacy for their daughter and the publicity that will inevitably come with spending time together.
While her family settles into Wellington for the next few weeks, Ms Ardern will be jumping straight back into the rigours of politics on Monday.
The government ship has been reasonably steady during her six-week absence, but it’s not been drama-free: business confidence has hit a 10-year-low, nurses have been on strike and tension with Australia over deportations has risen.
And there won’t be room for a run-up.
Parliament sits this week, meaning opposition politicians will be polishing their questions for when the Prime Minister steps back into the debating chamber.
‘Hostile to their views’
During the impromptu press conference, Ms Ardern was asked about controversial Canadian conservative speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux being forced to cancel their NZ appearances on Friday night.
The pair canned their show in Auckland after the owners of the venue they had booked pulled out.
When asked about Mr Molyneux’s claim that New Zealand was “hostile to free speech”, Ms Ardern said: “I think we’re hostile to their views.”
“They’re here because there were no grounds to block them being here. But that does not mean we welcome their views.
“I think you’ll see from the reaction that they have had from New Zealanders that their views are not those that are shared by this country and I’m quite proud of that.”