Jacinda Ardern defends ordering £40,000 plane journey to breastfeed newborn baby

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has been forced to defend her decision to take a £40,000 flight to a Pacific meeting to reduce her time away from her eleven-week-old baby.

Ms Ardern, who is still breastfeeding her daughter Neve, decided to fly on the New Zealand air force’s Boeing 757 to attend the three-day Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru for just one day.

She chose not to travel out for the full summit with her deputy Winston Peters, meaning the plane had to make a separate journey just for her.

Ms Ardern said she was unable travel with Neve because her daughter is too young for the necessary vaccinations, and so the expense was necessary to “fullfil my obligations as prime minister”.

“The option was go for a short time or not go at all,” she said. “If I didn’t go, I imagine there would have been equal criticism… Damned if I did and damned if I didn’t."

Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford. The New Zealand prime minister gave birth earlier this yearCredit:
Fiona Goodall/Getty 

Several commentators accused Ms Ardern of being wasteful and claimed she feared being overshadowed by her deputy.

"I’m loath to criticize a parent for wanting to be with their newborn,” said Duncan Garner, a presenter on New Zealand radio Newshub. “Been there, done that, understand it totally. But just pull out of the meeting."

Political journalist Barry Soper said Pacific island leaders would have understood if Ms Ardern chose not to attend because of her baby.

But others leapt to her defence. Emily Writes, who writes about parenting, said Ms Ardern was being criticised for “being a mother”.

“An outrage of old men took to their various platforms and exposed the horror to the nation,” she wrote on The Spinoff website.

Commentator Tracy Watkins said the suggestion that Mr Peters could do all the necessary work of the prime minister was “nonsense”.

“It’s never been suggested previously that sending the prime minister is unnecessary when the foreign minister is already in place,” she said on stuff.co.nz.

“Or is Ardern seen as different because she is a woman with a young baby?”

Newshub presenter Nadine Higgins said: "What are we going to do: only have people standing for prime minister if they’re post-menopausal or male?"