October 20, 2020

NZ election: The people left behind in Ardern’s ‘kind’ New Zealand

Throughout her tempestuous first term as New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern has maintained a message of kindness. But as she seeks another term in power, critics say that it will take more than kindness and charisma to get the economy on its feet and lift tens of thousands of people out of poverty, writes the BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil.

“Where I come from, there’s no kindness happening,” says Agnes Magele, a Pacifica-origin single mother of three who lives in South Auckland, the poorest area in New Zealand’s biggest city.

The phrase “be strong, be kind” became a trademark of Ms Ardern’s leadership at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

Ms Magele also says she doesn’t feel like she’s part of the “team of five million”- another phrase coined by Ms Ardern when referring to the population of New Zealand.

“Is it kind when people don’t have enough money to buy basic essentials, such as food, for their children? Is it kind when parents have to skip meals so their kids have a bigger portion?” she asks.

Ms Magele and her family have struggled for years. She lost her job as a TV extra two weeks before the first Covid-19 lockdown. She’s now on the job-seeker benefits of 250 New Zealand dollars (£127; $164) a week. She says that doesn’t even cover half her rent.

Agnes Magele

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