According to reports, Ardern fought back the tears as she made her stunning announcement, claiming that she no longer has "enough left in the tank" to lead the Pacific nation situated well off Australia's southeastern coastline.
Ardern, 42, led her country for a little more than five years after she became the youngest-ever New Zealand prime minister, being at the helm during the COVID pandemic and the Christchurch mosque murders in 2019. Her resignation will take effect on Sunday if her ruling Labor Party can elect someone to replace her with a two-thirds vote that day. Otherwise, she officially will leave on Feb. 7.
During a press conference on Thursday, Ardern said over the summer, she took stock of herself and the challenges she had faced as the country's PM, and wanted to find a way to continue serving at a capacity requisite for the job, but added that she failed to do so. "I have not been able to do that," she said, admitting she was reflective during the Christmas break as well.
"Once I realized that I didn't, I knew, unfortunately, there was not much alternative other than to hand over now. I am human. Politicians are human. We give all we can for as long as we can -- and then it's time. And for me, it's time," she added.
"I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice," she continued. "I am leaving because with such a privileged job comes a big responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead -- and also when you're not.
"I have given my absolute all to being prime minister but it has also taken a lot out of me. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that inevitably come along," Ardern added. "Having reflected over summer, I know I no longer have that bit extra in the tank to do the job justice. It's that simple."
She also said she was leaving to spend more time with her family, while asking her partner and fiance, Clark Gayford, to finally wed after they were unable to do so in January 2021 due to the pandemic.
"To Neve, mum is looking forward to being there when you start school next year. And to Clarke, let's get married," she said.
Speculation began to run rampant within moments of her announcement about why she is really stepping down, with politics at the forefront, with the UK's Daily Mail reporting:
She insisted her decision to step down had nothing to do with the fact her Labour Party is trailing in the polls behind its conservative rivals from the National Party ahead of the upcoming election in October.
The National Party took the lead in the polls following unrelenting public anger over her draconian Covid lockdowns, which included one nationwide lockdown over a single infection, and vaccine mandates. Her policies sparked nationwide protests -- one protest against vaccine mandates that began on Parliament's grounds last year lasted for more than three weeks and ended with protesters hurling rocks at police and setting fires to tents and mattresses as they were forced to leave.
When asked what she wanted to be remembered for, she replied, "As someone who always tried to be kind."
But Cameron Carpenter, in a piece for the Daily Mail, harkened to the COVID rules, in which she locked New Zealanders out of their own country -- including him -- for about two years.
"For New Zealanders like me, she leaves behind the lasting memory of the cruelty of her pandemic policies," he wrote. "And to add insult to injury, her surprise resignation because she 'doesn't have enough in the tank' leaves the country in limbo, with no obvious successor, a struggling economy and inflation surging out of control. What's kind about that?"