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Ardern heading our way


First regional visit since maternity leave

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is Masterton-bound and she could be bringing the most talked-about baby in the country – her daughter, Neve.

She will be in town on the morning of August 16 for an invitation-only ribbon-cutting event at Breadcraft and a Digital Seniors “high tea” for several hundred at the Copthorne.

It will be Ardern’s first regional visit since she formally resumed the role of Prime Minister after returning from maternity leave last Wednesday.

Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty said it was not possible to fit any public appearances into the schedule but there would be an attempt to get Ardern back to the region for a more comprehensive visit.

“It is a case of being able to take advantage of the opportunity,” he said.

It is not yet known whether baby, Neve, will come with Ardern.

“That is something they are playing by ear. It certainly hasn’t been ruled out. I think that is a call she will be making on the day,” he said.

Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford is likely to be attending if Neve comes along.

At Breadcraft, she will officially unveil a significant piece of new manufacturing equipment.

Breadcraft chief executive Phil Holden said the visit would be “a great day for Wairarapa”.

Holden contacted the prime minister’s office in April in the hope Ardern would be available.

“Given the Government’s focus on regional development, I felt Breadcraft was a local success story and the perfect example of regional success that may hold some appeal in terms of the prime minister coming to visit,” he said.

She will be given a tour of the site, followed by the ceremonial cutting of a ribbon.

Her arrival coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Cockburn family’s ownership of Breadcraft.

Holden believes her visit is a vote of confidence in the region.

“I’m thrilled and absolutely delighted that two weeks back from maternity leave, and her first visit out of Wellington is to Breadcraft and Wairarapa.”

National media will be present in numbers for the visit, and McAnulty said that would put the spotlight on the events.

“Wairarapa has a tremendous story to tell and Breadcraft investing in their manufacturing capacity is an indication of that,” McAnulty said.

After the ceremony at Breadcraft, Ardern will attend a high tea for around 200 people to launch Digital Seniors, an initiative to support people aged over 65 to use technology.

She is expected to acknowledge the lifetime contribution made to the region by former Masterton mayor Bob Francis.

McAnulty said the Digital Seniors programme had potential to be a nationwide programme and had started from an initiative in Wairarapa.

The initiative is being led in part by Francis, McAnulty said, with Unitec masters student Cathy Hardinge.

“We do have a higher-than-average proportion of older people in Wairarapa and they all have something to contribute,” he said.

Ardern took over as Labour leader on August 1 last year, and inherited previous leader Andrew Little’s schedule.

Little had been to the Wairarapa several times and Ardern did not visit during the election campaign.

She attended the Labour Party’s away caucus meeting in Martinborough in January, an event that has been confirmed to return next January.

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