Jacinda Ardern, the former prime minister of New Zealand, has been awarded one of the country’s highest honors, the Dame Grand Companion, in recognition of her remarkable contributions in addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the terrorist attacks on two Christchurch mosques, and the White Island volcanic eruption.
The 42-year-old received the state honours on King Charles’ birthday holiday, which the country celebrated on June 5..
Usually, New Zealand’s prime minister recommends the awardee, and is then sent to the British monarch, the head of state, for approval.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins praised his predecessor, saying that Ardern was recognised for her service during some of the “greatest challenges New Zealand had faced in modern times”.
“Leading New Zealand’s response to the 2019 terrorist attacks and to the COVID-19 pandemic represented periods of intense challenge for our 40th Prime Minister, during which time I saw first-hand that her commitment to New Zealand remained absolute,” Hipkins said.
After assuming the premiership in 2017, Ardern resigned in January in a shock announcement, saying she had “no more in the tank” to lead New Zealand.
She said that she felt “incredibly humbled” to receive the honour but was in “two minds” to accept it as the efforts for which she was getting recognised for “were about all of us rather than one individual.”
“But I have heard that said by so many Kiwis who I have encouraged to accept an honour over the years,” Ardern said in a statement.
“And so for me this a way to say thank you – to my family, to my colleagues, and to the people who supported me to take on the most challenging and rewarding role of my life.”
How was New Zealand’s Covid response?
Ardern was lauded domestically for keeping New Zealand largely free from Covid until the end of 2021 due to the government’s swift response and geographic isolation.
But not everything was hunky-dory was the Ardern administration had to face the wrath over vaccine mandates and strict border closures, which prompted protests last year.
The government’s financial response was also blamed by some political opposition parties for contributing to three-decade-high inflation.
The former prime minister was widely praised for showing compassion to the survivors and the families of the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks that left 51 dead. She also swiftly tightened firearms control in New Zealand, following the attack.