World

“No brainer”: Ardern ups NZ parental leave

By AAP Newswire

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has celebrated her government's 26-week paid parental leave scheme by dishing out cake to new mothers and campaigners.

Since coming to office in 2017, Ms Ardern has made family and child wellbeing a central focus of her government

Paid parental leave was the government's first piece of legislation, growing NZ's scheme from 18 to 22 weeks and increasing pay rates.

Another four-week jump takes effect on Wednesday, bringing paid leave up to half a year.

Kiwi parents will now receive $NZ606 ($A566) a week after the government pegged payments to the average wage.

"This feels like the kind of occasion that needs to marked and celebrated," Ms Ardern said.

Ms Ardern became just the second world leader to give birth in office in 2018, when she became a mother to Neve, though her first-born was missing from Wednesday's announcement.

"What a shame I don't have Neve with me but on second thoughts she has a snotty nose," the PM said, jokingly blaming the children of her Education Minister Chris Hipkins after their two families shared a playdate on the weekend.

Paid parental leave was first made available to Kiwi mothers in 2002 under former PM Helen Clark, but advocates have long had their sights set on the 26-week milestone.

First-time expecting Wellington mum Georgia Choveaux, who campaigned for the change, will be one of the first to receive the leave and described it as a "special gift from the community".

"I'm worried about nappies, sleepness nights and lots and lots of laundry but what I'm not worried about is income security," she said.

"Both me and my bump are very, very grateful."

Ms Ardern, an MP since 2008, said improving leave had been "a battle for a very long time".

"If we want to be a country that is known for being the best place in the world not just to be a parent or raise a family, but the best place in the world to be a child ... then this is a no brainer," she said.

"We know these are the most important times in a child's life.

"When I think about that period, I often look back at those photos ... I think Neve was so small, she was so little.

"Those precious moments when you've got a newborn that is so vulnerable, so little, and the most important thing is growing those bonds with family, then (paid parental leave) just makes complete sense."