Health Minister David Clark has saved his job – despite lockdown breaches – and business adviser Rob Fyfe is apparently still in Government favour, despite not being thanked for his economic recovery work.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today it was “remiss of me” not to acknowledge the work of Fyfe, the former Air NZ CEO who worked without pay for eight weeks as business liaison at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.
The New Zealand Herald revealed on Friday that the Prime Minister had effectively cold-shouldered Fyfe.
On May 18, Fyfe wrote to Jacinda Ardern letting her know that after eight weeks embedded in the Wellington Covid-19 operations command centre he proposed to return to his Auckland home.
Fyfe confirmed to the Herald that three weeks on the Prime Minister has yet to acknowledge his letter.
Nor had Ardern thanked him for the leadership he and his private-sector team brought to organising vital personal protection equipment for frontline health staff, ventilators and a world-class contact tracing app to cover clear inadequacies within the New Zealand health system.
“It was surprising,” said Fyfe.
Ardern told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking today that Fyfe had sent her an email in May – she did not see that as the end of their engagement together.
“We have been working on a way to formally acknowledge the people who have been working for us and with us. I have been in touch with him in the last couple of days. We are having a catch-up some time very soon.
“The job’s not done yet. Perhaps I viewed his ongoing role a little differently… perhaps he thought he was exiting and I didn’t.
“Rob still has an ongoing role he can play, so I didn’t see it as a conclusion.
“It was remiss of me not to publicly acknowledge him in between times given he thought he was concluding. He’s played an important role.”
The comments come as a spokesperson told the Herald on Friday that Ardern had thanked and acknowledged Fyfe.
Meanwhile, Ardern also confirmed David Clark would stay in his role as Health Minister, despite saying earlier he would have been sacked for lockdown breaches if the country was not in the middle of dealing with a pandemic.
Clark drove to a beach during lockdown and to a mountain-bike park on another occasion.
“I deem it necessary for him to be the Minister of Health,” Ardern said today.
“I stand by the decision I made at that time.
“We have had a very successful response and David Clark has been part of leading that.”
The country was also about to unveil health reforms that he needed to lead.
“If you are asking me if, because we are out of lockdown, I am revising that decision [not to sack him], I am not.”
The Government has announced a $60 million injection to councils and KiwiRail to create 800 new jobs nationwide for New Zealanders impacted by Covid-19.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said as part of the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) reset $60m would be allocated for road and rail projects across the country that will focus on worker redeployment.
“This is made up of $27.2m for local roading projects, $26m for rail projects and nearly $6.8m for the Ministry of Social Development to support workers into training to take up these jobs.”
He said this meant at least 800 New Zealanders in need of employment due to the economic effects of Covid-19 could now be employed into work in their own communities.