Jacinda Ardern christchurch shooting new zealand terrorism
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (Image: AAP/Boris Jancic)

Trans-Tasman rivalry is normally restricted to either the sporting field or disputes about the origins of various (Kiwi) successes -- from Phar Lap and the pavlova, to Russell Crowe and Neil Finn. Thanks to Jacinda Ardern and John Key, a new area of competition is emerging: politics, and more specifically prime ministers.

For eight years John Key, a seeming paragon of stability and levelheadedness, guided his country through the tribulations of the GFC and two major earthquakes. In the same period, Australia witnessed internecine war in both major parties and churned through five prime ministers. The contrast was captured best by Key himself when he quipped about meeting his Australian counterpart, “I don’t really mind who turns up; just wear a name badge so I know who it is".

And now comes Jacinda Ardern. Even before the Christchurch terror attacks she had demonstrated her leadership skills by being the first world leader to attend the UN General Assembly with her baby and by being prepared to criticise China for its human rights abuses in spite of that country’s importance to New Zealand as a trading partner. Ardern’s triumphant handling of the Christchurch attack has now raised her profile to a whole new level. Less than a week after the attack, The New York Times published an editorial that was typical of the adulation she received: "America deserves a leader as good as Jacinda Ardern".