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Ardern Receives New Zealand Top Honor for Leadership During COVID, Mosque Attack

FILE - On Monday, June 5, 2023, former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — pictured in Sydney on July 8, 2022 — received one of New Zealand's highest honors for service leading her country through several challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday received one of New Zealand's top honors, recognizing her efforts for leading the country through the COVID-19 crisis, the terror attacks on two Christchurch mosques and the White Island volcanic eruption.

Ardern was named "Dame Grand Companion," the second-highest honor in New Zealand, on King Charles' birthday holiday celebrated by the country on June 5, and she made the coronation honors list for this year. The awardee is usually chosen in New Zealand by the prime minister and then approved by the British monarch, the head of state.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Ardern was recognized for her service during some of the greatest challenges New Zealand had faced in modern times.

"Leading New Zealand's response to the 2019 terrorist attacks and to the COVID-19 pandemic represented periods of intense challenge for our 40th prime minister, during which time I saw firsthand that her commitment to New Zealand remained absolute," Hipkins said.

Ardern, who became the prime minister in 2017, resigned in January in a shock announcement saying she had "no more in the tank" to lead New Zealand.

Ardern said she felt "incredibly humbled" to receive the honor but was in "two minds" to accept it as the efforts for which she was getting recognized for "were about all of us rather than one individual."

"But I have heard that said by so many kiwis who I have encouraged to accept an honor over the years," Ardern said in a statement. "And so for me this a way to say thank you — to my family, to my colleagues, and to the people who supported me to take on the most challenging and rewarding role of my life."