Just weeks ago her prominence on the general election campaign trail was unthinkable.
Ardern – then deputy leader – had declared that every colleague would have to be hit by a bus before she would step up as the “designated survivor”.
Yet here she is – following the surprise resignation of her predecessor and Ardern’s swift promotion – promising to end child poverty to a roomful of women who along with young people are her greatest champions.
‘I thought it was an awesome opportunity to come down and see a fabulous vibrant young leader’ says Kerry Cooper – who spends her evenings phoning everyone she knows to talk them into voting for Ardern.
‘I thought it was an opportunity to see history in the making’.
Empathy and approachability are Ardern’s stock-in-trade and they are on full display as she campaigns along the working-class west coast of the South Island – encouraging juvenile offenders to pursue their plan A and laughing with locals at the Blackball Hilton pub where everyone wants to buy her a whisky.
Her famous smile dropped as she spoke with the bereaved families of the Pike River miners.
But it was back the next day for a rally of 400 in Greymouth.