Challenges grow for New Zealand PM Ardern as communications minister resigns

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in an e-mailed statement that Clare Curran had contacted her to offer her resignation for failing to declare a meeting with a candidate for a top government job.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in an e-mailed statement that Clare Curran had contacted her to offer her resignation for failing to declare a meeting with a candidate for a top government job.PHOTO: REUTERS

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accepted the resignation of her communications minister on Friday (Sept 7), only hours after saying her job was safe, capping off a tough month for the popular premier since her return from maternity leave.

The resignation of Ms Clare Curran, the standing down of another minister last month while a staffing matter was investigated, and a sharp fall in business confidence have raised questions about the effectiveness of the centre-left coalition government.

Ms Ardern said in an e-mailed statement that Ms Curran had contacted her on Thursday night to offer her resignation for failing to declare a meeting with a candidate for a top government job.

"I agree with her assessment that resigning is the best course of action for the government and for her," Ms Ardern said.

She said in a radio interview earlier on Friday that Ms Curran's job was safe, but later told reporters that the comment was in response to a question about whether she had asked Ms Curran to resign, which she said she had not. She then defended her government's stability.

"Absolutely. No question," she said.

"Ultimately what we have here is an error of judgment from a politician... These things do happen in office," she said.

Ms Curran had already stepped down as open government and digital services minister on Aug 24 for failing to properly declare a meeting with a candidate for the job of the government's chief technology officer. She had retained her more junior communications and broadcasting portfolio.

 

She was also questioned by opposition MPs this week over whether she had used her personal e-mail account for government business.

"I have come to the conclusion the current heat being placed on me is unlikely to go away. This pressure has become intolerable. For the benefit of the government, and my personal well-being, I believe that resignation is the best course of action," Ms Curran said in an e-mailed statement on Friday.

Ms Curran will continue to represent Ms Ardern's Labour Party in parliament, so the government's number of seats is not affected. She is the first minister to resign since the Ardern coalition took office in late 2017.