ANKARA (AA) – Outgoing New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday made her final public appearance before leaving office, state-run media reported.
Ardern joined her successor, Chris Hipkins, and other lawmakers at the Ratana meeting grounds in the country's North Island, which is home to an Indigenous Maori religious movement.
"For my part, I want you to know that my overwhelming experience in this job of New Zealand and New Zealanders has been one of love, empathy and kindness," Ardern said during her speech at the gathering, according to Radio New Zealand.
"That is what the majority of New Zealand has shown to me and I want you to know that I leave with a greater affection for Aotearoa New Zealand and its people than when I started, and I didn't think that was possible.Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the greatest privilege of my life," she added.
Ardern announced her shock resignation last week, saying she will not run for re-election and that her term as prime minister will end no later than Feb. 7.
Her successor, Chris Hipkins, is expected to be sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday, according to state-run media.
Ardern also paid tribute to her cabinet members, lawmakers, and Chris Hipkins, calling him "my friend Chippy.”
"Kelvin Davis is right – you knew me as Aunty, I hope you know him as Chippy, because it speaks to who he is as a person: Personable, down-to-earth, practical and good with tools," she commented.
"Chippy, you're a friend and colleague to us all – but I know you'll be a wonderful prime minister," Ardern told the new premier.
Ardern will formally resign from the top position on Wednesday, before Hipkins is sworn in at Government House, according to RNZ.
However, she will continue to serve as MP until April to avoid a by-election, as the country's general elections are scheduled for Oct. 14.
*Writing by Islamuddin Sajid