The revelation that the Health Minister continued to move houses during the alert level 4 lockdown shows Dr David Clark's misguided priorities and it's time for him to be sacked, Simon Bridges says.
Newshub revealed on Tuesday that Dr Clark - who has based himself at home in Dunedin for the last month - continued moving house during the nearly five-week nationwide lockdown imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
While the Health Minister did the bulk of the relocation to a property just down the road prior to the lockdown, he continued moving boxes while alert level 4 was in play. His office told Newshub he was using the old residence as an office, so would shift things when he returned home.
According to the COVID-19 website, "the requirements of alert level 4 mean that people can't move into or out of their houses", while the Justice website says people can't move houses except in "limited cases". Throughout the lockdown, Kiwis were instructed to stay at their residences unless accessing or providing essential businesses and services or partaking in limited recreational activities.
Bridges, the National Party leader, says it shows Dr Clark's priorities.
"He continued moving. He started it out of lockdown. I think what it does show is why he stayed in Dunedin, and you know my view because I have said it time and time again, he needed to be, in a pandemic as the Health Minister, in Wellington. That's his real sin here," Bridges told The AM Show.
"It shows where his priorities were, it shows why he was in Dunedin [and], as I say, as Health Minister, it beggars belief that he wasn't in Wellington dealing with the biggest health crisis we have ever seen in our history."
The Health Minister told Newshub Nation on Saturday that he stayed in Dunedin just like most other Kiwis had been forced to stay home. He said he was still conducting meetings via Zoom and having the same conversations he would be if he was in Wellington.
"We were asked to go back to our electorates to make sure that we were able to be in our communities like everybody else in New Zealand, locked up and in our bubbles. Now, I have been able to do interviews as I'm doing with you right now," he said.
Dr Clark was demoted to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings and stripped of his Associate Finance Minister role earlier this month after it emerged he drove 20km to a beach during the lockdown, something he later admitted was idiotic. He had also previously ventured to a mountain biking track.
At the time, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said under normal circumstances, she would have sacked Dr Clark as Health Minister, but she didn't want the disruption that would cause in the middle of a pandemic.
Bridges said it was now time for the Prime Minister to get rid of him.
"If we stand back and look at this, the Prime Minister doesn't have confidence in him, she didn't anyway, this is his third strike and I think that he should be gone," he said.
"On the third strike, after the bike riding and [the beach trip], now this, that's it."
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister on Tuesday night said: "Based on what the Health Minister has advised her he moved house prior to lockdown, and based on his description of events, had not breached the rules of lockdown".