Ardern stymied as NZ parliament resumes

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New Zealand's parliament has resumed under lockdown, but against the wishes of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Parliament was recalled on Tuesday, day 14 of a national lockdown designed to squash a COVID-19 outbreak.

The debating chamber sat empty during last year's level four lockdown, but this year, the opposition National party forced its resumption.

Opposition Leader Judith Collins said it was necessary for democracy. Ms Ardern has labelled it irresponsible.

The Greens and the Maori Party agree with the Labour prime minister, calling it unsafe and reckless given the opportunity to convene a virtual sitting.

Ms Ardern has the power to suspend parliament - a power she used last week just days into the outbreak, but was unwilling to do for a second week.

"We actually worked really hard on a solution to allow a virtual version of the House," she said.

"Unfortunately that was rejected by the opposition."

Ms Collins said she refused the virtual sitting as it had not been tested.

Parliament's return is a political bunfight unlikely to be appreciated by Kiwis, who remain locked down across the country.

Ms Collins, who travelled from Auckland - the epicentre of the outbreak - insisted it was the right thing to do to keep the government accountable.

"I would much rather be home with my family. And they would rather that I was home with them," she said.

"But why should I expect police officers, people who stack shelves in supermarkets, people who work at the airlines to go and do their jobs ... (while I) stay at home?

"That's actually not what we expect from our leaders."

Many suspect her return to Wellington is to avoid the fate of her predecessor, Simon Bridges, who found himself hopelessly squeezed out of the picture during NZ's last outbreak.

Ms Ardern enjoyed blanket coverage as she oversaw a successful elimination of the virus in 2020, the bedrock to her huge election win.

Ms Collins' National Party trails Ms Ardern's Labour government significantly in the polls.

"The prime minister has done her very best to avoid having to face questioning. We were never going to give up," a defiant Ms Collins said.

This year, National Party believes it can win a political argument over low vaccination rates.

Ms Collins and COVID-19 spokesman Chris Bishop forced the issue in Question Time, without drawing too much political sweat from the government.

Just nine MPs - four from Labour and National, and one from ACT - attended the socially-distanced parliament.

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