By Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, Labour Party Leader, MP for Mount Albert.
It’s been a big year. Looking back over the past 12 months’ weekly Magic Talk columns we’ve covered everything from New Zealand’s strong economy and high primary sector export growth, to the largest ever government investment in mental health.
Traditionally, the last column of the year would be one that recaps all of this progress, but I want to take the opportunity to turn the spotlight away from Wellington, and parliament for a change.
There are a lot of people who make sure the work of government gets done and this year I want to thank those New Zealanders who’ve carried a particularly heavy load – our first responders.
That includes our police officers, ambulance officers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, iwi and marae who have continually opened their doors to those who need help, food, shelter and a sense of community.
Events this year have required these Kiwis to turn up, to take care of us, and they did that, without a second thought.
At the beginning of the year a long, hot, dry summer hit our rural communities hard. The Tasman drought forced farmers to take tough destocking measures and had our horticulturists choosing which crops to nurture and which to let die off.
During this difficult time local groups like the Rural Support Trust were there, supporting people whose livelihoods were directly affected by the extreme conditions.
The terrorist attacks on March 15 mark one of New Zealand’s darkest days. The bravery and professionalism of New Zealand Police, of Canterbury’s teachers, health professionals, and the Muslim community will forever be etched in my memory.
And just this week, we observed a minute’s silence in honour of the victims of the Whakaari White Island eruption. This tragedy highlighted the depth and breadth of what it means to be a first responder in a small country like New Zealand.
I want to particularly acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of health professionals across the country who prioritised support to those injured. To provide expert care we relied on our people in Waikato, Christchurch, Auckland, the Hutt, Tauranga and at Middlemore.
2019 has been a year that has tested New Zealand’s strength and shown our collective character.
I strongly believe that New Zealanders are always ready to lend a hand whenever needed. Ultimately I think we are a pragmatic bunch and instinctively we all pitch in to help one another get through the tough times.
So as we head into Christmas I’d ask you to especially take care of the people in your communities who take such good care of us year-round.
We finish the year with an economy in good shape, more Kiwis in work and rising wages meaning families are better off. Ultimately, we are investing in what matters most: People.
Ours is a country with heart, moving in the right direction with more to come.
Jacinda Ardern is Prime Minster, Labour Party Leader, and MP for Mount Albert.