New Zealand health minister demoted after lockdown family beach trip

7 April 2020, 05:27

New Zealand health minister David Clark
New Zealand health minister David Clark. Picture: NZ Govt
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

New Zealand's health minister has been demoted after breaking the country's lockdown rules by driving his family to the beach.

David Clark called himself an "idiot" as he admitted the 12-mile drive was "a clear breach of the lockdown principles" imposed due to coronavirus.

The minister has been demoted in cabinet rankings and also lost a secondary position of associate finance minister.

Mr Clark said he had offered Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern his resignation.

[LIVE NEWS: Coronavirus as it happens]

He said: "As the health minister it's my responsibility to not only follow the rules but set an example to other New Zealanders," he said.

"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."

The country went into its highest state of lockdown, level four, late on Wednesday 25 March.

On the first weekend of the new restrictions, Mr Clark drove his family from their home in Dunedin to Doctor's Point beach.

He admitted he broke the rules to the country's Prime Minister after he was criticised for driving to a mountain bike trail last week.

New Zealand's PM Jacinda Ardern said under "normal conditions" she would have fired Mr Clark, but she and the country expected better.

"We cannot afford massive disruption in the health sector or to our response," she said.

"For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr Clark will maintain his role. 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.

"I expect better, and so does New Zealand."