World

More maternity leave for NZ’s government

By AAP Newswire

While New Zealand's prime minister is settling into her maternity leave, another minister in the government has announced her own baby plans.

Women's Minister Julie Anne Genter says she'll be taking up to three months off following the birth of her first child in early August, roughly the time Jacinda Ardern - who gave birth on Thursday - is expected to return to the capital.

The 38-year-old says there's a lot to be gained from women in the executive having kids.

"I think that it's OK to celebrate it. I don't think we're at the point where we can say 'no big deal'," Genter told AAP on Monday.

"There's definitely a sense of hopefulness amongst women I meet to see other women in our position becoming mothers for the first time, that it gives them a feeling of progress."

An American dual citizen, Genter is also the associate transport and associate health minister and her Green Party colleagues will be filling in during her leave.

She said the coincidence of her and Ardern having children early in their first term in government is an opportunity to publicly discuss what policies are needed to help other parents.

"I think we can acknowledge that there hasn't been as much progress in the last few decades as has happened in other countries and we've got some catching up to do ... We have a long way to go to be somewhere like Iceland or Sweden in terms of paid parental leave and family support"

New Zealand's government extended paid parental to 22 weeks in November, with a plan to raise that to 26 weeks by mid 2020. In Australia it's 18 weeks.

While Ardern last week became the first elected world leader to go on maternity leave, having babies in office is far from new for Kiwi politicians.

Labour's Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan was the first woman to give birth while an MP, in 1970. National's Ruth Richardson breastfed at work in 1983 and a child-care centre was established in parliament in the 1990s.

And while Senator Larissa Waters made headlines in Australia by feeding her daughter in the chamber, in New Zealand National's Katherine Rich did so during a debate in 2002.

A playground is currently being built on parliament's grounds.

Efforts to make politics more family friendly were vital to improve representation in the house, Genter said.

"I think we will learn as we go about other ways to ensure being young and having a family aren't a barrier to participating in politics."

Ardern, 37, left hospital on Sunday, announcing her newborn daughter had been named Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford. She's set to take six weeks off but will be consulted on major issues.