PM furious over poor communication over Covid testing in Auckland

On Friday incorrect official advice was circulated which encouraged people South or West Auckland to have a Covid test.

This wasn’t corrected until Saturday, and the Prime Minister Jacinda Arxdern was reported to be furious.

But a bunch of people on social media seem to have been furious that Ardern was ‘repeatedly questioned’ on it.

The Government’s Unite Against Covid promoted this via their daily newsletter and social media:

Say yes to the test

Widespread testing is a critical part of our COVID-19 elimination strategy. COVID-19 tests are free and should be easy to access for everyone. We have more than 1,100 testing sites nationwide, including at most GPs.

If you’re in South or West Auckland, or if you have a greater risk of poor health outcomes if you were to get COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms, please have a test.

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, wherever you are, please call Healthline (0800 358 5453) or your doctor immediately and have a test.

The Spinoff describes it as:

Some alarmingly poor health communication went out over the weekend, leading to a furious response from the PM. The all-of-government Unite for Covid-19 group basically wrongly everyone in South and West Auckland to get a test, even if they didn’t have symptoms, in a message that stayed online for a full day.

NZ Herald: Incorrect message results in people queuing up for testing

Incorrect messaging telling people in West and South Auckland to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms has resulted in people queuing up at testing stations today.

That mistake resulted in queues of cars snaking out from a Covid-19 testing site in Massey West Auckland.

But Ardern said it had not been reported to her that testing sites have been overloaded.

A witness at a testing station in Massey, said cars were around the corner stretching onto Triangle Rd soon after the station opened at 8am today.

Another witness told the Herald the testing station was a lot busier than it was yesterday and the majority of people were wearing face masks.

United Against Covid said the advice had been removed ‘to avoid confusion’:

That’s a poor response.

RNZ: PM ‘incredibly angry’ over wrong call for South and West Auckland testing:

In a social media post, it said people who live in those areas, or who are at greater risk of poor health outcomes, should get themselves tested.

But at today’s Covid-19 briefing, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this was an oversimplification.

“That is not the ask coming from health officials currently … from what I understand of that message that has gone out, the detail of the message is correct, some of the topline headings were oversimplified and it is wrong.

“We’re working very hard now to deal with what’s that created within the community and we’re working very hard to correct that.”

She said was “incredibly angry” that it wasn’t clear and the government had to be “very direct in our asks”.

“There’s been an attempt to keep a message simple and it’s just been done badly.”

Jason Walls (NZ Herald): New Zealanders have every right to be ‘incredibly angry’ at the Government over incorrect Covid messaging

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is quite rightly “incredibly angry” at her officials for pushing out incorrect Covid-19 testing information.

But New Zealanders have every right to be incredibly angry at the Government for letting that official message remain unchanged for almost an entire day.

The fact that the stuff-up occurred in the first instance beggars belief.

The information affected roughly 700,000 people in South and West Auckland.

Ardern was “incredibly angry” about this “wrong” information being published on official channels, and rightly so.

She said she was told about the incorrect messaging late this morning and made it clear it needed to be fixed.

But the information was still up at almost 1.30pm.

Officials getting something this major so wrong erodes public trust in the Government.

People need to be able to rely on the Government for key information like this.

Ardern does get off the hook when it comes to the blame for how the stuff-up occurred.

She does not approve every single bit of Government messaging that goes out, she has officials for that.

In fact, she clearly shifted the blame to those officials when pressed about the issue – saying no ministers had uttered that information.

But Ardern needs to take responsibility for what happened next.

The incorrect post went up at roughly 5pm last night; it was reported on by most major news sites and made it to some Sunday newspapers as well.

Despite this, no formal correction notice was issued until the next day, according to Ardern.

And by formal correction notice, Ardern meant the All of Government communications team – the people in charge of the post – had notified newsrooms across the country, telling them the information was wrong.

The Herald, which ran the story that the Government was advising all people in South and West Auckland, received no such notice.

This is despite reporters seeking comment on the post.

In fact, Health Minister Chris Hipkins was interview by MediaWorks radio this morning and made no mention of the fact this critical bit of information was wrong.

Ardern revealed the information was incorrect at her 1pm press conference this afternoon.

Even then, she waited to be asked about the post rather than issuing the correction in her opening statement – a statement watched by hundreds of thousands of people each day.

Ardern said she had made it clear to the officials involved that they needed to fix the error.

Despite this, the post remained on the Unite Against Covid-19 Instagram page until almost 1.30pm.

Ardern should be furious at officials for this botch up – but New Zealanders should be equally as angry at the Government for not fixing the issue faster.

Was Ardern furious that the public was ‘misinformed’ and testing facilities were put under strain? Or because Government handling of this was criticised, and by association she got some poor PR?

On social media quite a few people seemed to be furious with journalists for highlighting the mistake to the Prime Minister.

To some it seems that Ardern is beyond reproach no matter what stuff-ups are made.

David Clark not doing interviews despite assurances from Ardern and Robertson

Minister of Health David Clark was a no show on Q+A today and has refused other requests for interviews despite the Prime Minister and Grant Robertson claiming he is always available (and knowing he is refusing).

On Thursday Stuff reported Robertson as saying “He’s available to front anytime”.

But as Jack Tame pointed out he reneged on a scheduled Q+A interview for today so wasn’t always available as stated. RNZ Live referred to it as “a no show’.

Also from RNZ Live:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was grilled by journalists as to why Health Minister David Clark has declined some interviews this weekend. She said others had fronted, he was at home at lockdown and he would continue to be available for interviews.

Tova O’Brien reported:

Dr Clark refused Newshub’s repeated requests for an interview, instead sending a short statement.

So according to Robertson and Ardern, Clark is “available to front any time” and “would continue to be available for interviews”, but according to journalists he isn’t.

The Minister of Health, during the biggest health crisis for decades, is remote from the centre of Government and Ministry of Health activity (working from home in Dunedin) and is not giving interviews despite the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance saying he is available (but knowing he isn’t doing interviews).

Something is obviously not right here. Actually probably three things, Ardern, Robertson, and Clark’s application to his job.


It looks like journalists are onto the Missing In Action issue now.

The black art of OIAing

Despite promising to be one of the most open and transparent governments ever reality is quite different. Refusals to disclose information seems to be becoming more of a black art than ever.

That prompted this quip:

Promised transparency was an election promise that could have been kept by all parties in Government, but power seemed to change their minds quite quickly.

Stuff in December: For a Government vowing to be more transparent, it really is stuck in the mud

For a Government vowing to be the most transparent and open the country has ever seen, it really did get stuck in the mud this week.

That 38-page secret coalition document that’s stored in a not-so-secret safe in Winston Peters’ office has caused all sorts of headaches, for the prime minister in particular, who has been visibly frustrated about the position she’s been put in.

On Monday, it was revealed the prime minister’s office was refusing to release the document that NZ First leader and deputy prime minister Peters had previously described as “a document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development”.

Newsroom in April: Grading the Government

Open government and transparency – F

Perhaps its biggest failure. Promising to be the most open and transparent government ever, the coalition has instead stumbled repeatedly over its own good intentions. Just five weeks in it found itself defending its right to withhold a crucial governing document while the Prime Minister’s plans to proactively release cabinet papers and briefings had been pushed to the side.

The Official Information Act continues to be treated with disdain, with many journalists holding the opinion that their requests are taking longer, and returning poorer results, than under National who was not exactly known for its transparency.

Meanwhile, the minister tasked with opening up the Government to greater transparency found herself mired in a murky case of secret coffee meetings and mysterious voicemails while the Labour Party couldn’t even be open with its own leader when news of sexual assault at a youth camp broke. Soon after the Government was formed I wrote that despite all the promises, things were unlikely to change. Of course, I hoped I would be wrong but all signs point in the other direction – Shane Cowlishaw 

The signs are still pointing in a far from transparent direction.

Like this: Clark’s holiday further proof of Govt’s lack of transparency

Jacinda Ardern promised her Government would be the most open and transparent the country’s ever seen, but they’ve failed. The fallout from the country’s biggest industrial spat in the health sector in a generation put paid to that.

The hum from the spinning top in the Beehive was deafening, it was always the minister’s intention to be back in the country before the strike began and for its duration, he insisted.

Bollocks. If this Government wants to be taken seriously it’s got to be what Ardern promised it would be, transparent.

Yet again another case for this Government of spin over honesty.

Will this black art…

…become a symbol of Ardern’s government’s ‘transparency’?