Minister of Health Clark drove to bike park for a ride under lockdown

Minister of Health David Clark took some time out from his busy schedule on Thursday to drive to a bike park in Dunedin to ride an easy trail. His van was the only vehicle in the car park the park is accessed from so social distancing was probably way enough (some people may have rode their bikes to the park to use it).

Clark’s prominently painted van was photographed at the park, and he admitted going for a ride between conference calls (he is currently working from home).

Lockdown rules about recreation are a bit vague but this is setting a bad example by a Minister prominent in Governnment making stringent rules for the public.

Stuff: Health Minister drives to local park to ride his mountain bike, amid coronavirus lockdown

Clark, who earlier on Thursday told Stuff the coronavirus response was his “singular focus”, said he didn’t “want to give anyone the perception” that he was taking the lockdown lightly, after his van was photographed at Logan Park — a 2.3km distance from his home.

Clark, in a statement responding to queries from Stuff, confirmed he went for a bike ride between video conference meetings on Thursday afternoon.

“As health minister I try to model healthy behaviour … This was my only chance to get out for some exercise in daylight hours,” the statement read.

Clark said he drove to a mountain bike trail called “The Big Easy”. The trail, according to the Mountain Biking Otago club website, is an “easy” rated trail that is 6km long.

“The track itself is not challenging, and is widely used by families and foot-traffic. I know that now is not the time for people to be engaging in higher-risk exercise activities,” he said.

“I don’t want to give anyone the perception that I take these matters lightly. This is a reminder to me to think carefully about how best to fit some exercise into my new-normal routine.”

Is this a big deal? There have been calls (from political opponents mainly as far as I have seen) for Clark to be sacked as minister for flouting the lockdown rules.

If this had been a general member of public it might have been criticised, but if the police became involved they would probably have ‘educated’ the driver/rider.

But is this a case of a Minister setting a bad example (now he has been outed)?

The rules over what we can do in the level 4 lockdown are a bit vague. We have been told we can go out for exercise in the vicinity of our homes but not to drive across town. We have also been told to avoid doing things that may end up requiring emergency help.

Clark is inferring that doing an easy bike trail at least reduced the risks.

A Nelson emergency department doctor, Tom Jerram, on Thursday said people should not mountain bike, even on easy trails, during the lockdown as they may injure themselves and take up hospital resources.

“We may not have the hospital capacity to treat you and we want to reserve all our capacity for fighting this illness,” Jerram said.

He lives in the vicinity so could have ridden his bike to park (and would probably not have been noticed), and that would arguably have been more risk (hill route but with low traffic).

But does look a bit hapless from a Minister that appears to be struggling with the huge responsibilities he has. And it’s a bit embarrassing for the Government.

It does have the appearance of one rule (or guidelines) for the public but politicians can do as they please.

Clark, earlier on Thursday, said he had declined to receive a highly anticipated review of the health system due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“My singular focus is on the health response to Covid-19,” he said.

Except when he takes a bit of time out. A daytime excursion does seem a major misjudgement for Clark.

Another problem with this is that members of the general public may see this as a signal that they can push the boundaries of the lockdown.

I don’t know if this should be a sackable offence (I’m reluctant to jump on ‘sack him’ type bandwagons).

It is a very bad time to be bringing in a new Minister of Health – unless the prime Minister wants an excuse to put someone more competent in one of the most important roles in Government in the most challenging of circumstances.


This doesn’t help: Message from Cycling New Zealand around riding in public – keeping everyone healthy and safe 

this pandemic is bigger than sport and bigger than cycling and so whatever you choose to do, please know that Cycling New Zealand absolutely stand by following the Ministry of Health Guidelines found here at  https://covid19.govt.nz

Their guidelines are updated regularly and will provide you with the most correct and relevant information around what you can do to keep physically active whilst keeping you and your loved ones safe and healthy.

Alert Level 4 means we must severely limit travel, with driving only permitted for essential travel such as getting food or medicine from your local area. The best way to reduce the risk of exposure to yourself and others is to stay at home.   However, we do realise that people will want to get out and exercise.

If you do go out, please limit yourself to short walks or rides, following the government’s recommended hygiene guidelines.  Here are some tips to help you protect yourself and others in the current environment

  • If you can, ride indoors on a trainer or exercycle
  • If outdoors, ride solo or in your family bubble.
  • Ride from home.  Don’t drive and then ride.
  • Ride short and local so that you do not increase the pressure on the emergency services if something goes wrong. This means no long-distance or epic rides away from your region or extreme riding.
  • Ride sensibly and safely to avoid accidents and putting unnecessary pressure on medical services or expose yourself to the heightened risk of infection

Nothing in the ODT yet about Clark, but they have these two articles:

Dunedin residents enjoyed a balmy evening yesterday with a walk on St Clair Beach.

Tougher measures may be needed to deal with those breaching lockdown rules, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult says, after people were caught jumping off Albert Town Bridge yesterday.
Leave a comment

57 Comments

  1. Gerrit

     /  3rd April 2020

    On it’s own this is neither major nor sackable. The problem for Ardern is that it represents yet another crack in the control she is trying to exert.

    Add up all the little (and not so little – open borders) cracks in the control she is persuading us to follow and by week 3 the general populace will be 100% ready to give this lock down away.

    Any semblance of persuasive power the government had to keep us from driving to our favorite exercise location is now gone. Clark has placed the Police (and possibly the soon to be utilised military) in an unenviable position. That is the real damage Clark has done by not thinking.

    A smart person would have used an unmarked personal car, not an emblazoned campaign van. That is another “Jeez Wayne” or WTF moment. (you have to be on a pension to remember the “Jeez Wayne” quote and connotations)

    Slowly but surely these cracks undermine any confidence we may have in Ardern and the government. And that is fatal on so many levels.

    Reply
    • I’m not on a pension and remember ‘jeez Wayne’. I can put a time to it. When I was 18 I was drinking in the Gardens upstairs bar with friends (the in place in Dunedin in the seventies) police did a circuit and stopped to chat. One of my friends (who was 19) responded with ‘jeez Wayne’ and attracted attention, was marched outside and pinged for underage. The rest of us were left to carry on drinking.

      Reply
      • Conspiratoor

         /  3rd April 2020

        I wonder what Jon Gadsby would make of it. Probably something that would bring the tut tutters out in force and a charge for breaching some dim witted regulation

        https://teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/37529/a-week-of-it

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  3rd April 2020

          I remember ‘Jeez, Wayne.’ and I am not a pensioner.

          People called Wayne were wishing McPhail and Gadsby anywhere.

          A university friend and I were lucky enough to be dogsbodies for the Amnesty International concert that featured them and spent some time with them and the rest of the cast. It was a privilege to work with them even as dogsbodies and I treasure the memories. They and most of the others were very friendly and made us feel like part of the team; the Topp Twins didn’t.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  3rd April 2020

            David McPhail bought my inlaws batch at Rangitata Huts where we had spent some happy holidays with our young kids and their grandparents. He was a couple of years ahead of me at CBHS. As was Bruce Jesson.

            Reply
  2. Conspiratoor

     /  3rd April 2020

    This so-called lockdown is beginning to unravel and descend into farce if my experience yesterday is any guide…

    Excuse me sir why are you driving during lockdown?
    I’m looking for a new jug. My one has died
    Why are you pulling a boat behind you?
    I’ve lost my job and have to feed the whanau, so I’m going to catch a feed
    Ok sir have a nice day

    https://yournz.org/2020/04/02/certain-and-uncertain-consequences-of-covid-lockdown/#comment-404476

    Reply
  3. artcroft

     /  3rd April 2020

    Would it make any difference if they sacked him? Clearly he’s not actually in charge of anything or fronting the campaign. His entire contribution is simply to be present and say and do nothing. If he was sacked it’d lead to a couple of headlines today and forgotten tomorrow.

    Reply
  4. David

     /  3rd April 2020

    I am stunned he is working from home at this time and would have time during the day to go for a bike ride in normal times let alone now. Is he really that inept that the health system runs without his input or oversight and anyone who works from home knows how quickly out of touch you get.
    She cant leave him in place he will taint her with every inevitable error will now be sheeted back to her having a part time health minister under a part time prime minister.

    Reply
    • lurcher1948

       /  3rd April 2020

      Less of the rightwing term PTPM,so who on the right could do a better job than PM Jacinda Ardern,the answer is NO ONE

      Reply
      • Gerrit

         /  3rd April 2020

        That is what Churchill thought in 1945. NO ONE is better then me.

        Till Clement Attlee said; hold my beer.

        Churchill gone burger. Despite what he had done so valiantly 1939 to 1945.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  3rd April 2020

          Attlee was deputy PM during the war coalition government which contained labour ministers as well. The election was well over due – by 5 years and had been 10 yrs since last . So in a sense Atlee and labour could campaign on being a part of the victory
          BTW Churchill wasnt PM till 1940

          Reply
    • Conspiratoor

       /  3rd April 2020

      Perhaps you are right, or maybe it will just lead to a further “clarification” ie relaxing of the rules until we get to the stage where the term Laocoon simply means out-of-a-job

      Reply
      • Conspiratoor

         /  3rd April 2020

        Oh dear, too early…

        …the term ‘locked down’ simply means ”locked out of a job’

        Reply
    • “I am stunned he is working from home at this time and would have time during the day to go for a bike ride in normal times let alone now.”

      I’m very surprised on both counts, especially him working from home.

      Reply
      • David

         /  3rd April 2020

        Talked to my Brother last night and in the space of a fortnight his hospital had built a new ICU ward and split the A and E department in two for covid and non covid patients. This is the NHS so he is unsure if he will ever recover from the speed and action.
        This virus is here and its no doubt spreading I would like the minister riding the DHBs hard to make sure they are prepped so we dont quickly overwhelmed. Or perhaps there is no plan B and its lockdown until a vaccine.

        Reply
    • Duker

       /  3rd April 2020

      “under a part time prime minister.”
      Forgotten about the time Key would be off on holiday – he had ‘second homes’ in 3 locations including Hawaii and London

      And no Health ministers dont have input or supervise the health system…. its more of ‘grand policy’ and this time of year the budget process. ( Cabinet ministers are also involved in collective decision making for all areas of government)
      Hospitals have their own management team and the DHB has ‘supervision’ of that
      Legally he cant interfere, very few ministers can ‘supervise or direct’, the Corrections Minister being one

      Reply
      • David

         /  3rd April 2020

        Of course he can interfere and direct and provide funding and resources, what an absurd suggestion that the minister is irrelevant to excuse his arrogant behavior.
        We are under a public health emergency in case you havent noticed, he is all powerful and can do what he likes. His choice was to relax at home and go for a bike ride.

        Reply
  5. lurcher1948

     /  3rd April 2020

    As a 71 year old our bubble is us 2 and 3 dogs and we transfer our bubble to my SUV and drive 2 minutes to our exercise/dog area,and self isolate as it HUGE.The footpaths are crowded with sweaty spitting runners now that the gyms are closed,my car is for safer for our health,and my agility dogs can zoom far away from other dogs

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  3rd April 2020

      As a general rule I don’t see exercisers spitting. Rugby players,yes.

      Reply
  6. Gezza

     /  3rd April 2020

    Former Police Commissioner Mike Bush, on his last day in the job (Andy Coster took over as NZ’s CoP at 12.01am this morning) was given over an hour’s grilling by the Epidemic Response Committee yesterday morning.

    He did not impress – either me, or, I suspect, several on the Committee.

    It was clear from members’ & The Chair’s questions that – with really only one other other important issue getting a good airing – the police’s interpretation of the lockdown rules at the regional & individual officer level has been inconsistent & very confusing for both officers & the public.

    Not assisted, in Auckland, as an example cited by one of them, by four top NZ Execs giving the public contradictory answers to the question: “Can I drive to the beach outside my suburb to exercise?”

    Jacinda told people yes. Mike Bush said no – you must stay in your suburb. Phil Goff told people yes, you can. And somebody else – possibly the Civil Defence Head Honchess – said no, you can’t.

    Bush was vague, & evasive: he seemed to know very little about what was happening on the front line. Big on jargon & slogans, not so much on Policing. He dodged a lot you’d think a copper would know by saying that he gets – or would need to get – Crown Law advice.

    A pen-pusher & meeting-attender, bureaucratic type, I thought. Hope Coster will be better.

    The Committee wants to see the detailed guidelines Bush claimed they already have & that are still being evolved published so the public & the police both know what they should be doing. Bush said he wanted to get Crown Law advice on that.

    More later.

    That Committee runs very well, I have to say. Way better than Parliament, but the video of yesterday’s proceedings is a solid 3 hours; not many members of the public, including me, would manage to sit down & watch a marathon like that.

    Reply
    • Conspiratoor

       /  3rd April 2020

      Thanks G, you’re doing god’s work there. Too early to cast him aside though. He’ll grow into the role as others have done and he begins to work out who he is acting mouthpiece for

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  3rd April 2020

        Yes , I appreciate the run down. Strange actions from the CoP, instead of firm and decisive head of the Police we seem to have a timid bureaucrat from the Ministry of Silly Walks.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  3rd April 2020

          Yes, he was actually criticised for some of the sillier, flippant things he’s said, when telling the media how officers would be policing the lockdowns & monitoring those supposed to be in quarantine or self-isolation – instead of taking a more professional approach.

          The piss poor, inadequate policing of quarantine/self isolation was the other main topic he got grilled over. Several members said they thought that THAT should be where the police’s focus should be going – not on running around stopping members of the public & asking them what they were doing & that they should go back home, etc.

          Reply
      • Gezza

         /  3rd April 2020

        All members of the Committee thanked him warmly for his service & several, IIRC including Bridges, said they were sure they would be seein him again in some important role in the not too distant future.

        It sounded like they might be “in in the know” & like the govt might be cooking up some other lucrative sinecure important role for … The Rooster 🤔 Time will tell.

        But it didn’t stop several of them from giving him a good working over & sounding unimpressed at times with his flannelling.

        Reply
  7. Corky

     /  3rd April 2020

    Going by the ministers example, and that of others, it now becomes clear how the army should be deployed once they receive the green light. All parks will be locked down by infantry. Most major road junctions within a city limit will be manned. And roving army patrols will become a common sight. As time goes on and ferals become restless, soldiers will be targeted and beaten as a sport substitute.

    http://www.nzdf.mil.nz/personnel-records/personnel-branch/

    Reply
    • Conspiratoor

       /  3rd April 2020

      Wow! A mere 4,638 regulars. Hope they never have to go up against the mongrel mob

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  3rd April 2020

        How should I take that so I can respond?

        Reply
        • Conspiratoor

           /  3rd April 2020

          Just surprised the number is so low. Not sure what a standing army of less than 5,000 is meant to achieve. If it came to a shooting war with another country they would simply melt away. They would also struggle to subdue any sizable outbreak of internal dissent so that limits them to a token role in the next global conflict.

          What say you corky?

          Reply
          • Corky

             /  3rd April 2020

            Agreed. I mentioned a while back when my nephew enlisted in the army, they had to buy their own boots and part of their kit. They also had a mess fee to pay.
            Not good. And that’s before we get to the low numbers you highlight.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  3rd April 2020

              He’d have been better to join the NZ Army where the uniform has always been provided as have the things that they are required to have.

            • Corky

               /  3rd April 2020

              Picky as usual. GIVEN, I forked out money for the boots and other items of kit, don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.

              As I have told you on many occasions, and I wish you would listen so we
              could save thread space….don’t comment on things you know nothing about.

              NZ Army? Did you think I was talking about the Indian Army? 🙄

  8. Alan Wilkinson

     /  3rd April 2020

    In the UK the Health Minister, Hancock, is getting roasted for the Ministry’s inertia and incompetence in failing to ramp up testing.

    Nigel Farage has a brilliant paywalled column which includes this gem:

    Perhaps I should not be so surprised, though. When it comes to career politicians, Hancock is a classic of the genre. Whenever I see him I think of nobody so much as the preposterous character Sir Joseph Porter from Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera H.M.S Pinafore, who rises without trace to become an MP and then First Lord of the Admiralty despite having no naval qualifications. In the brilliant song “When I Was a Lad”, Porter sings: “I always voted at my party’s call, and I never thought of thinking for myself at all…I thought so little, they rewarded me by making me the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!”

    I suspect it may be relevant to much of our current leadership team.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  3rd April 2020

      suspect ..you say!…does your derg bite?…inspector C….

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  3rd April 2020

        Chomp. That”s not my dog.

        Gilbert responding to a gushing, “Is dear Mr Sullivan still composing?”:
        No Madam, he’s decomposing.

        Reply
    • Appropriate on a topic about David Clark unfortunately.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  3rd April 2020

        Appropriate on a topic about David Clark unfortunately.

        Hmm. Yeessss. an unimpressive Minister who might be one of those folk who, when they leave a job, seem know even less about it than when they started.

        Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  3rd April 2020

      Wasn’t he the one who ‘swept the floor and polished up the knockers on the big front door/I polished them up so carefully/That now I am the leader of the Queen’s navee.’

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  3rd April 2020

        Yes, he’s the one. More of Farage:

        The time has come to remove Hancock. This must happen quickly. I agree with those who say the country needs a Lord Beaverbrook-type wartime figure. This fearsome newspaper owner and businessman was by no means an easy man and was very probably a tyrant, but he got things done. That is why Churchill asked him to serve as his Minister of Aircraft Production in 1940. Will Johnson have the courage and foresight to ask an outsider like Beaverbrook to step in?

        If Britain sticks to its existing course, not only will the death toll be higher than it should be as a result of inefficiencies, but there will be other consequences too. For one thing, other countries which will be ahead of the UK on antibody testing will re-emerge and their economies will start to grow far more quickly than Britain’s. I want Boris Johnson to succeed as prime minister, but his time in office will end in ruins unless he grasps the nettle now.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  3rd April 2020

          `People confuse that song with the Judge’s one, (Iolanthe ?)

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  3rd April 2020

            Trial by Jury.

            Winston Peters is like The Vicar of Bray.

            Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  3rd April 2020

            Trial by Jury, I think.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  3rd April 2020

              Oops, that’s the flaw in responding via the WordPress comment tracker – it doesn’t show any updates.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  3rd April 2020

              Do you know the Vicar of Bray song ?

              The chorus is something like ‘For whatsoever king may reign/I’ll still be the Vicar of Bray, sir.’

              Comment tracking must be why some PDTs downtick virtually everything I say as soon as it appears. Corky has said that he bookmarks all my posts.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  3rd April 2020

              No, the comment tracking I meant was the one that shows replies to my comments by clicking the bell on the top right.

  9. lurcher1948

     /  3rd April 2020

    Sean Plunkett has just stated on air that if David Clark isn’t sacked by 4pm he will recomend everyone go to the beach this weekend. It will be interesting to watch both lose their jobs and Media Works loss its operating licence

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  3rd April 2020

      Will it happen faster if he holds this govt to account or he doesn’t?

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  3rd April 2020

      Plunket another right wing freak trying to make a mountain bike out of a ….scooter.

      Reply
        • duperez

           /  3rd April 2020

          Plunket is a man who likes absolutes. The rule which would have suited him would have been that no-one was allowed off their property except for going to work or to buy survival supplies.

          The country would be crawling with those enforcing of the rule, police working overtime and the army brought in to check credentials. No-one would be trusted. He would no doubt applaud the Philippino president’s ‘Shoot disobeyers dead’ approach.

          Plunket demonstrates perfectly that we don’t have the maturity to handle being left to act as adults and make sensible decisions. We need specific, exact, no room for movement, no personal interpretation regulations.

          We haven’t done that, Clark operated within the boundaries as he saw them and Plunket can’t handle it.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  3rd April 2020

            Woodhouse, at yesterday’s Epidemic Committee meeting – when Mike Bush was being interrogated – made some good points & valid criticisms, but then surprised me by indicating he favoured a tough approach by the Police to policing the lockdown.

            Reply
  10. Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  3rd April 2020

      What do you want, socialised health services or control of your life?

      Meanwhile GPs are going broke with not enough work?

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  3rd April 2020

      That’s as bad as it gets. In the UK, he’d be gone by lunchtime tomorrow, if not dinner time tonite. The problem Jacinda has is – who the hell among her lot could she replace him with?

      Reply
  11. MaureenW

     /  3rd April 2020

    If he wasn’t the Health Minister, I might cut him some slack. In the throes of a heath pandemic, the Heath Minister flouts the rules (and gets caught), he should be shown the door.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  3rd April 2020

      There are no rules. They make them up as they go along. Worse, they are using essential as a proxy for safe and it isn’t. And most stupid of all, they act as if outside activities are more risky than indoor ones when the reverse is certainly true. The number of people infected outdoors is certainly miniscule.

      Reply
      • MaureenW

         /  3rd April 2020

        Certainly agree with your last point. NSW is far more relaxed where people still have a few more options that align to their normal day to day activities, while respecting the social distancing and other common sense observations.

        Reply
  1. Summary of the David Clark bike ride | Your NZ

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