As Jacinda Ardern delivered a bombshell resignation speech announcing she would stand down as New Zealand’s prime minister, she closed with: ‘And, Clarke, let’s finally get married.’
The mother-of-one was addressing her long-term fiancé Clarke Gayford, who has been supporting his partner’s high-powered career from the sidelines ever since she took office in 2017 and is a hands-on father to their daughter, Neve Te Aroha. After the couple got engaged in 2019, their nuptials have been delayed by several factors out of their hands including the Covid pandemic.
Although he has joked in the past that he is ‘plus one’ to his 42-year-old powerhouse fiancée, Clarke is well-known in his own right as a TV presenter of a fishing show, DJ and radio host in New Zealand.
Clarke, 46, is currently the host of property programme Moving Houses in New Zealand, but many viewers remember him from the reality TV show Treasure Island, where he was one of several contestants placed on a remote island in Fiji and competed for a prize fund of $25,000 NZD.
Clarke Gayford, 46, (pictured paddle boarding) first began dating Jacinda Ardern in 2013, a year after they first met at an awards ceremony, when he emailed her to discuss a constituency issue. The presenter and DJ, who once appeared on New Zealand reality show Treasure Island, went on to have a daughter with the prime minister and he proposed to her in 2019
The couple first met at an awards ceremony 11 years ago but they did not begin dating until they reconnected 2013. Before charming the future prime minister, Clarke was in a relationship with New Zealand actress Shavaughn Ruakere.
Shortly before their split, they were described as ‘a couple who adore each other and share an easy rapport’.
Clarke and Jacinda (pictured at the ASB Rugby Awards in 2018) bonded over their shared love of music after initially meeting to discuss a constituency matter
Clarke, who has a love of fishing, revealed in an interview that he wooed his fiancée by turning up to her house with crayfish in their early stages of dating
As Shavaughn laughed off engagement rumours, she said: ‘We’re happy the way we are.’
However, a few months after the interview, the couple parted ways and Clarke began dating the politician.
Reflecting on his first meetings with the now-prime minister, Clarke told a New Zealand radio station: ‘This is slightly embarrassing — I had a constituency issue and I emailed my local MP.’
Clarke revealed he had been concerned about privacy issues surrounding the government’s Communications Security Bureau Amendment Bill, so he got in touch with his MP Nikki Kaye.
After he claims Kaye failed to reply, he went to the top and contacted Jacinda Ardern, who was an MP at the time, and she arranged to meet Clarke to discuss the issue over coffee.
Father-of-one Clarke took Ardern on a fishing trip for their first date and realised he had met his match when she reeled in a 5kg snapper
The parents welcomed their daughter Neve Te Aroha in June 2018 and have juggled parenting with their busy lifestyles ever since
Before long the pair realised they had an awful lot in common, including a shared love of music and previous experience turning tables as DJs. They became friends, before their relationship began to blossom into something more.
In an interview with Woman’s Weekly, Clarke revealed he took the politician on a fishing trip on their first date so he could share his biggest passion with her – and he realised he had met his match when she reeled in a 5.4kg snapper.
He said: ‘The sea was glass flat and we had a huge pod of dolphins join us. It was literally Jacinda’s first cast and she was like, ‘Ooh! Something’s pulling!’
‘She pulled in a 5.4kg snapper. And she said, ‘Is that good?’ And I was like, ‘That’s real good!”
The couple grew closer as they bonded over fishing and seafood, with Clarke revealing he wooed her by turning up to her house with crayfish.
In 2017 Ardern was elected leader of the Labor Party and therefore leader of the opposition. Less than two months later, she won a general election and became the prime minister.
Later that year, the couple announced Ardern was pregnant with their first child, choosing a sweet Instagram photo of two large fishing hooks and a third mini hook to illustrate their expectant arrival.
She wrote in the caption: ‘Clarke and I are really excited that in June our team will expand from two to three, and that we’ll be joining the many parents out there who wear two hats.’
During her pregnancy, the prime minister revealed in an interview with the New Zealand Herald that the couple celebrated the news with a feast.
She said: ‘[Clarke] bought me home a burger and some flowers from the dairy so that was lovely.’
While Clarke is famous in his own right as a DJ and TV presenter, he has previously joked he is his fiancée’s ‘plus one’
She added: ‘It’s only the second time Clarke has bought me flowers, so it was actually quite a big deal.’
The couple welcomed their daughter Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford into the world on June 21, 2018 and the following year, the couple announced their engagement.
Ardern confirmed in April 2019 her partner popped the question that Easter after she was spotted wearing what appeared to be an engagement ring on her left hand.
The proposal took place at the top of Mokotahi Hill in Mahia on North Island’s east coast with a ring that belonged to Gayford’s grandmother.
‘It was Clarke, myself, a member of the DPS (Diplomatic Protection Squad), a couple of locals from Mahia and a dog which tried to eat the chocolate that Clarke bought me at the same time, so it was very romantic,’ she said at the time.
Despite setting a date for wedding last year, the prime minister decided to postpone her nuptials after she raised the Covid alert to red, following rising cases of the virus in New Zealand.
The year 2022 threw in some bizarre curveballs for the couple as Clarke found himself at the centre of a social media storm when false rumours he was awaiting criminal trial began to circulate.
Thousands of online trolls in Facebook and Reddit groups circulated the baseless rumours in recent months claiming criminal charges had been pressed against Clarke.
New Zealand police were forced to confirm the rumours were completely fabricated , with a spokesman saying the popular TV and radio presenter had never been charged with any offence.
Clarke himself commented on the speculation, poking fun at the whole debacle.
Taking it in his stride, he wrote on Twitter: ‘Yes, but have you ever seen Clarke Gayford and me in the same room at the same time.’
The fake rumours are believed to have existed in some form since Ms Ardern became prime minister in 2017, but spread more rapidly last year amid mass protests in the country’s capital Wellington over Covid vaccine mandates.
Throughout Ardern’s career, Clarke has often spoken highly of his fiancée in public.
In 2020, at a campaigning event before the general election where she was elected for a second term, Clarke jokingly referred to himself as a ‘plus one’.
He said: ‘It gives me an enormous sense of family pride to introduce you guys to the best job applicant for prime minister that this country has ever produced, in my humble opinion.
‘And although she might hide chocolates from her partner, she easily wins the favourite parent award from Neve Te Aroha each and every evening.
‘Please welcome to the stage, my not-quite wife, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda.’