December 4, 2020

Clark stands down as Health Minister, Nat says ‘too late’

After months of coping mounting pressures as a Health Minister, David Clark this morning has finally tendered his resignation.

“I have made the call that it is best for me to stand aside,” says Clark, and claims decision was his.

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has accepted his resignation as Health Minister and appointed Chris Hipkins to replace his portfolio.

“David Clark contacted me yesterday to confirm his wish to resign as a Minister and I accepted that resignation,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“I am appointing Chris Hipkins as Health Minister until the election. Our response to COVID is on a stable footing and I have full confidence that Minister Hipkins will oversee the portfolio with the thoroughness and diligence he brings to his other areas of responsibility,” she added.

The main opposition party, National was among those repeatedly calling for his resignation.

National’s spokesperson for Health, Michael Woodhouse, told NewsViews that Clark had to go, but his resignation has “come too late”.

“David Clark’s resignation was necessary, but has come too late. He has not delivered as Health Minister and there is no question he needed to go. He has consistently failed in his responsibilities and the Prime Minister should have fired him months ago, instead of waiting for him to resign.

“Chris Hipkins has two significant roles now with Health and Education, which shows the lack of depth in Cabinet. New Zealand deserves more than just a caretaker until the election considering the importance of the portfolio,” Woodhouse says in a statement to NewsViews.

At a press conference this morning, Clark said he had “given it my all” but “it has become increasingly clear to me that it has become a distraction to the government’s overall response” to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Jamie Strange & David Clark
David Clark (R) with Jamie Strange (NewsViews File Photo)

David Clark had earlier tendered his resignation in April this year during the level four lockdown but was not accepted by the Prime Minister.

That move came after it was revealed Clark had breached lockdown rules, by going mountain biking and travelling across Dunedin for a family beach visit. At that time, Jacinda Ardern did not sack him from the portfolio due to the health crisis prevailing at that time, but demoted him to the lowest rank in cabinet.

Recently, Clark came under fire again when he refused to accept responsibility for failures in the isolation system of incoming Kiwis from overseas. His contention was that Ashley Bloomfield had already taken responsibility for those failures. He was blamed for throwing Bloomfield under the bus.

Today, however, Clark owned “full responsibility for decisions made” and praised Dr Bloomfield as an “exceptional public servant”.

“I wish to put on record again that I take full responsibility for the decisions made and taken during my time as minister of health,” said Clark. “Although ministers are generally advised against being publicly effusive about public servants I want to put on record again that it has been an honour to work alongside the director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield. He is an exceptional public servant.”

Prime Minister Ardern said: “It’s essential our health leadership has the confidence of the New Zealand public. As David has said to me the needs of the team must come before him as an individual..“Post-election I intend to reassess who is best placed to take the health portfolio forward.”

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