Health Minister David Clark defends moving house during COVID-19 lockdown

The Health Minister is defending moving house on the day New Zealand went into COVID-19 lockdown - but a first-home buyer who avoided moving to follow the rules says it's disappointing. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has decided that Health Minister David Clark moving house and continuing to shift boxes throughout alert level 4 doesn't warrant punishment.

That's despite Dr Clark's other lockdown breaches, including mountain biking - a forbidden activity - and driving 20km to the beach for a walk with his family when Kiwis weren't allowed to drive for recreation. 

It was a different story for first-home buyer Anna Murray who had just bought her first home in sunny Hawke's Bay, but did not shift house during that time in accordance with the Government's lockdown rules.

 "[I thought] yay, I can go get my keys next week," she recalled to Newshub. "[Then] level 4 lockdown came in, so unfortunately I couldn't move into my home."

The Health Minister didn't have the same problem. He booked movers for March 25. We were in alert level 3 and heading into lockdown that very night. He continued moving boxes between the houses throughout alert level 4.

Murray told Newshub the Health Minister's actions were disappointing.

"A bit disappointing really [when] someone in a position to set the rules for us as a nation is actually not sticking to them himself, particularly when those restrictions have been put in place to keep us all safe and well."

Newshub asked the Health Minister on Wednesday why there were a different set of rules for him compared to other New Zealanders, but he disagreed.

"There wasn't a different set of rules. I followed the rules at all times."

That's despite the lockdown mountain bike ride and beach trip the Prime Minister demoted him for. 

"I feel like a complete dick, if I'm honest," he said at the time.

Dr Clark's new house is just down the road from the old one. But the Ministry of Health's rules say: "At alert level 3 you can move house, but only if it is a long-term move that needs to happen now."

Dr Clark told Newshub the move was "something that was needed for the sake of my household" and that he continued to use his previous residence as an office.

So, as the Prime Minister and other key ministers were in Parliament on March 25 declaring a state of national emergency, the Health Minister was moving house.

"I can tell you I had no... This was just a normal change of household," Dr Clark said. "People book in advance moving companies."

The Prime Minister said she was aware of the situation.

"I was aware that the minister before lockdown had moved home - before lockdown".

It was just hours before lockdown, and we already knew how serious the situation was - two days earlier the Prime Minister had made that clear: she warned that tens of thousands of Kiwis could die if the lockdown rules weren't followed. 

Opposition leader Simon Bridges told The AM Show Dr Clark should not hold the role of Health Minister because of the rule breaches.

"The Prime Minister doesn't have confidence in him - she didn't anyway. This is his third strike, and I think he should be gone."

The Prime Minister wanted to sack Dr Clark earlier this month and he's still on notice.

She said on Wednesday, "I give no minister guarantees about anyone's future because we all have to maintain standards all the way through our practise in these roles."

But moving house just before and during lockdown appears to meet her standards.

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