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

In direct contrast to the Arsehat category — which gave us the clearest winner in the award’s history — the voting for 2019 Person of the Year has been the tightest on record. A mere 37 votes separate first and second place.

So first, an honourable mention to Greta Thunberg, who spent the year giving world leaders a well deserved shellacking for their inaction on climate change. The predictable barrage of hostility and petty insults from conservative politicians and media has left her unbowed.

Perhaps she takes it — as we in the Crikey bunker do — as a sign that she’s having an impact.

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But, ultimately, our readers — perhaps with a sigh of jealousy — opted for a leader across the Tasman.

“They are us”. Three words from a leader dealing with the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the likes of which her country had never seen. That first speech, before the full extent of the horror was known, summed up why New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern topped this list:

Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.

They are us.

Ardern’s response to the unimaginable horror of the Christchurch massacre was more or less flawless in both tone and content. The dignity and solidarity she showed with victims was matched with the courage to act decisively on reforming New Zealand’s gun laws.

In a year where many leaders fled from scrutiny or cashed in on the kind of sentiments that lead to incidents like Christchurch, Ardern showed what leadership that pushes back against the worst parts of society really looks like.

The Whakaari/White Island disaster acted as a grotesque bookend on New Zealand’s year. The full extent of the response is still developing, but if the aftermath of March 2019 is anything to go by, those impacted would be justified in a quiet confidence they’re in good hands.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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