More details have come to light about the firing of The Breeze Christchurch radio host Dave Dunlay, who claimed his dismissal over breaching COVID-19 lockdown rules was "heavy-handed".
Speaking to Sean Plunket on Magic Talk, MediaWorks regional manager for Canterbury and Otago Rob McDonald said Dunlay had taken a pre-planned holiday at his lifestyle block over Easter.
"He did clearly compromise the safety of himself, his colleagues at the Breeze and our Newshub crew who operate on the same floor during the lockdown," McDonald said.
McDonald added that there was "more to the story" than had been initially shared by Dunlay via a social media post in which he claimed his travel was essential, in order to drop off medication for his sick dog.
"That is not the issue," McDonald said.
He said Dunlay could have easily driven to his lifestyle block, dropped off the medication, waved to his wife and daughter and returned home.
“He chose not to. He chose to continue on and stay there."
McDonald said Dunlay’s decisions could have had serious consequences.
"He had the potential to shut down our whole Canterbury operation off the back of his actions."
Dunlay was said to have denied that he was in breach of both the lockdown regulations and MediaWorks' COVID-19 policy for safe working conditions, despite a call from McDonald informing him of the situation.
McDonald said as well as the rules that were broken, Dunlay had behaved in a "hypocritical" manner considering his role as radio host communicating with the public.
"He was part of a broadcast team that broadcast over 472 COVID-19 messages, which he then ignored," McDonald said.
McDonald added that in his on-air voice breaks Dunlay himself had reminded listeners not to travel over Easter.
"I think the dog medication was a disguise to have a nice five-day holiday over Easter when everyone else is lockdown," McDonald said.
"A lot of people have made sacrifices during this time," McDonald said, referring to a co-worker who had been unable to visit a dying grandparent over Easter.
McDonald said MediaWorks was concerned to hear of Dunlay's plans to travel to his holiday home and questioned his co-workers once they learned of the potential Easter getaway.
In his initial social media post, Dunlay said he was "disappointed" by his colleagues, who he said did not talk to him about the breach.
McDonald says "sticking the knife" into Dunlay's co-workers is "totally unjustified".
"They've potentially been vilified on social media and online. We asked the questions when we found out what he was planning and they answered them for us."
Dunlay has since written a second Facebook post, in which he concedes he could have talked to MediaWorks about his reasons for travelling. Dunlay said he needed to deliver the dog medicine and support his daughter, who had recently had a "very stressful time" returning home from the UK.
"I thought my reason for travel was OK – maybe it wasn't – I lost my job. I also want to be clear that I stayed at my lifestyle block one night before I was stood down from The Breeze the following afternoon for my breach, but at no times did I break my bubble," Dunlay wrote.
The former radio host said he had already apologised to MediaWorks for any harm caused before he wrote his first Facebook statement on Friday.