Tuesday night marked the first of New Zealand’s election debates, with Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern and National Party leader Judith Collins taking the stage.
The debate marked the first time two women leaders have faced off in an election debate in the country since 1999, with Jacinda Ardern using the opportunity to talk about her commitment to tackling climate change in a post-COVID world.
“I’d say one of the biggest challenges we will face as a country is the fact that climate change is upon us, and we have to prepare our country for that,” Ardern said, when asked what her daughter will be grateful for in the future years.
“One of the projects we’re investing in, looking into pumped hydro, will mean New Zealand will be able to become 100 per cent renewably-charged by our electricity network.
“What a difference that will make. Not just to the opportunities for New Zealanders – it’s one of the few places in the world that will be powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity – but also for our exporters, for our reputation and also wider opportunities around our transport network.”
Ardern talked about finding a balance between being realistic and hopeful when it comes to future challenges.
“We have to be realistic about the challenges we face. We have to be both realistic and hopeful. We have to think about what it is going to be like for our kids,” she said.
“Climate change is upon us. We have to grasp this opportunity, use it to create jobs, but also invest in the problems we already had. Inequality – let’s put food in schools. Housing – let’s build more public housing. That’s the plan.”
Opposition leader Judith Collins remarked that Ardern’s comments were “nonsense” at one point. She focused on explaining the National Party’s plans for tax cuts for average wage earners, and also criticised the current government for “failure at the borders”, regarding COVID-19.
Ardern closed the debate by saying it has “been a really tough time for New Zealand”.
“We have had a terrorist attack, a natural disaster and a global pandemic. But in those tough times we have seen the best of us,” she said.
“We’ve been able to clear high hurdles and face huge challenges because of who we are, but also because we’ve had a plan. We have a plan and it’s already making a difference.”