Politics

Clark demoted after trip to beach

David Clark has disclosed he took a trip to the beach with his family during lockdown and offered his resignation. The Prime Minister keeps him as Health Minister, but demotes him.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has demoted Health Minister David Clark to the bottom of the Cabinet and stripped him of his Associate Finance Minister role after he disclosed another breach of lockdown rules.

A clearly angry Ardern said in a statement this morning she would have sacked him in normal times.

Already under pressure over a bike ride in breach of Covid-19 rules, Clark has disclosed he drove his family to a beach 20kms from his home on the first weekend of the lockdown.

Clark said in an early morning statement he had provided the Prime Minister with a full picture of his activity outside his home.

"That included the fact that on the first weekend of the Alert Level 4 lockdown I drove my family approximately 20 kilometres from our house in Dunedin to Doctor’s Point Beach for a walk," he said.

"This trip was a clear breach of the lockdown principles of staying local and not driving long distances to reach recreation spots," he said.

"As the Health Minister it’s my responsibility to not only follow the rules but set an example to other New Zealanders. At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices I’ve let the team down. I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me."

Clark said he had apologised again to Ardern and offered his resignation.

"In the interest of full disclosure, since the lockdown began I have also driven my family to a walking track approximately 2 kilometres from our house for a walk and gone for occasional runs, all of which were local and within the rules, and one bike ride which is already in the public domain," he said.

PM demotes Clark

Ardern issued a statement at the same time as Clark's saying she had been advised of the beach trip.

“Under normal conditions I would sack the Minister of Health. What he did was wrong, and there are no excuses," she said.

“But right now, my priority is our collective fight against COVID-19. We cannot afford massive disruption in the health sector or to our response. For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr Clark will maintain his role," she said.
 
“But he does need to pay a price. He broke the rules. While he maintains his Health portfolio, I am stripping him of his role as Associate Finance Minister and demoting him to the bottom of our Cabinet rankings," she said.

“I expect better, and so does New Zealand,” Jacinda Ardern said.

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