Mixed response to Jacinda Ardern's Auckland visit

Nicole Bremner
Source: 1News

The Prime Minister finally returned to Auckland on a flying visit on Wednesday that included four meetings and no public walkabouts.

It’s nearly three months since Auckland’s lockdown began, effectively preventing a visit by the Prime Minister, whose Mount Albert electorate and family home are in Auckland.

Jacinda Ardern’s first public outing was to JMP Engineering in the West Auckland suburb of Avondale.

The company is owned by Michael Thornton, who escorted the Prime Minister on a brief tour of the factory.

The pair discussed difficulties with MIQ, the transfer of some company operations overseas, and vaccination in the workforce.

After the visit, Thornton told media he believed the Government was aware of the problems businesses were facing.

Jacinda Ardern.

“They’re only here because they can be followed around [by media] and seen to be doing the right thing,” Thornton said.

“Otherwise to be honest the Government would have been in Auckland weeks ago.”

Parliament rules previously required five days of isolation of MPs returning from a region in Alert Level 3.

The Prime Minister had previously said would hinder her from doing her job, but decided to come to Auckland after a rule change.

From Avondale, Ardern went on to a warm and colourful welcome at Fale O Samoa in Māngere where hundreds turned out to welcome her.

Youth in the community had earned a ‘thank you’ visit from the Prime Minister for their support of the vaccination rollout.

She said the programme had undoubtedly saved lives and told the young people involved that they should “never underestimate the impact you have had".

In two other meetings to which media were not invited, Ardern met with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

Ardern also met in ‘informal settings’ with members of the city’s beleaguered hospitality sector.

The Restaurant Association, which counts 900 of the city’s cafés and restaurants in its membership, told 1News it had not been contacted about any ‘informal meetings’ and would have liked an opportunity to speak directly to the Prime Minister.

Ardern said she believed that through its handling of the pandemic, the government has continued to strike the right balance “all the way through of making sure that we are looking after people's health and wellbeing but also making evidence bases decisions that set us in the best position possible in the long run”.

She said she was planning to revisit Auckland again soon.