Why Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield wasn't given a New Year honour

While two prominent Kiwi figures and COVID-19 experts were given New Year honours for their advice throughout the pandemic, the most recognisable face wasn't.

Shaun Hendy and Michael Baker were named as honourees on the 2021 list, which celebrates the achievements of New Zealanders in their respective fields. Both were named members of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to science and public health science respectively.

But missing from the list was someone who's become a leading household name and a pivotal player in New Zealand's fight against the pandemic - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

Not to worry - there's a good reason for it.

"The convention is that senior public servants would usually have their achievements recognised when they're no longer doing the job," Public Service and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Sunday.

He said that arrangement didn't just apply to Dr Bloomfield.

"That's to people across the public service who are doing extraordinary things," Hipkins told reporters. "I think the fact Dr Bloomfield wasn't on the New Year's honours list is not something anyone should read anything into. Obviously, we hugely value the work that he and the whole team behind the scenes at the Ministry of Health have been doing around COVID-19."

Dr Bloomfield said he was "thrilled" for Profs Baker and Hendy.

"I sent them a text immediately when the list was announced, and also [to] the Prime Minister's chief science advisor Juliet Gerrard as well - [I was] thrilled to see made a Dame."

Throughout the pandemic, Dr Bloomfield said the trio had been of huge support.

"I'm thrilled that they were acknowledged and I remain committed in 2021 along with the team in both the Ministry of Health and right across [the] Government to keep serving the public, and doing our best to protect New Zealanders." 

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