Health Minister David Clark apologises for mountain biking during COVID-19 lockdown

Health Minister David Clark has apologised for driving 2.3km to go mountain biking during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Prime Minister has announced on his behalf. 

"I spoke to the Health Minister last night, who apologised to me," Jacinda Ardern said on Friday. "It's my expectation that ministers set the standards we are asking New Zealanders to follow.

"People can go outside to get fresh air and drive short distances if needed, but we have asked people to avoid activities where there is a higher risk of injury, and the Minister should have followed that guidance."

Dr Clark on Thursday drove 2.3km from his Dunedin house, in a van with his own face on the side, to a mountain bike trail. 

"This was my only chance to get out for some exercise in daylight hours," he said in a statement after a member of the public sent a photo of the van to media. "This is a reminder to me to think carefully about how best to fit some exercise into my new-normal routine."

The Government has urged Kiwis to avoid non-essential travel. The official Government COVID-19 website says you can leave home to "access essential services", go to work "if you work for an essential service" and "go for a walk, or exercise and enjoy nature". 

Dr Clark's bike ride sparked anger from the Opposition, such as National MP Judith Collins, who told The AM Show it is "evidence of just how confusing all these so-called rules that seem to be being made on the hoof are". 

"We've got the police wandering around beaches telling people to get off beaches - God knows why, when they're about 100m between each other," Collins said. "Then we have people coming into the country and not going into quarantine... that, I think, is what the problem is here."

National's finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith told Magic Talk Ardern has "a bit of a track record of not holding ministers to account very strongly" and that he wouldn't be surprised if Dr Clark got away with it. 

Labour MP Willie Jackson told The AM Show the Prime Minister had spoken to Dr Clark about it and that he expected that she would be stern. 

"She's tough and she would have said you know, 'That's not a good look.' David would have agreed with her... We're sorry too because we have high expectations... I'm sure it's not going to happen again," Jackson said.  

"He's under a lot of pressure. I think he knows he probably let the team down... We've all got responsibilities and Clark probably let his guard down for a while. I know the boss was talking to him last night and I know he's sorry. 

"People make mistakes. We take this seriously. I think he's apologised and we've sort of moved on now. He's doing such a good job for the country working with everyone. A bit of a mistake, and we can all make them."