NZ Election 2020: Dr Ayesha Verrall's experience could prove 'helpful' to Labour post-COVID-19 - commentator

Infectious disease expert Dr Ayesha Verrall's experience within the health system could prove "helpful" to the Labour Party in a post-COVID-19 world, a political commentator says. 

The Labour Party revealed its list on Monday, with Dr Verrall gaining the highest spot of any newcomer, sitting at 18, only one behind current Health Minister Dr David Clark.

Dr Verrall gained prominence over the past few months after writing a report critical of New Zealand's contact tracing programme. Many of the recommendations presented in that report have since been implemented.

She is also the deputy board chair of the Capital and Coast District Health Board.

According to Grant Duncan, an associate professor within Massey University's politics programme, Dr Verrall was the "standout" reveal on Monday.

"That's a surprising appearance for Ayesha Verrall, such a high place in the Labour Party list and just behind the current Minister of Health, who, of course, let himself down and let the country down, in fact, over the breach of the lockdown rules," Duncan told Newshub.

"Even though she was critical of the system, she's nonetheless found herself in this favourable position on the Labour Party list."

Duncan said Dr Verrall brings experience and qualifications that could help Labour - should it again form a Government - and create positive change within the health system after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"She certainly has the qualifications and kind of qualifications in infectious diseases that actually we really need right now and she did do a very important report on the system," he said.

"Coming out of this COVID-19 crisis, the next Government, whoever it is, needs to have a very close look at the preparedness of our health care system for pandemics and its overall fragmentation, doing something about that fragmentation, improving infrastructure and governance in the health sector.

"Bringing in that experience for Labour is no doubt helpful."

Dr Verrall said on Tuesday she was "eager to play my part in building a stronger and better-coordinated health system that looks after you".

"I'm determined to use my skills and experience in health to make sure New Zealanders get the best health care they deserve in any capacity I can."

The Prime Minister wouldn't speculate on Monday about whether Dr Verall could be New Zealand's next Health Minister. 

Dr Clark is "very keen" to stay on in the job but after his lockdown blunder which saw him demoted in the Cabinet rankings and losing his Associate Finance Minister role, a Newshub-Reid Research poll found 56.8 percent of participants said he shouldn't stay in the Health role.

Jacinda Ardern has said she would have sacked him if New Zealand hadn't been in the middle of a pandemic.

Considering Labour's current sky-high polling - at 56.5 percent in Newshub's latest poll, it would get 72 seats - Duncan says those further down the list could become MPs.

"It is a bit of a daunting task for Labour in a way because going on present polling it is likely they could have a very large caucus and so quite a number of new names and new faces and inexperienced MPs coming into the house next time," he said.

"If anyone is even considering voting Labour, you should have a close look at their list, in fact quite deep down their list, because quite a number of these new names could make it into Parliament after the next election."

While National's Todd Muller has regularly criticised the competency of the Government's Cabinet, Duncan said this Labour Party list does show experience - particularly in crises. 

"Labour's list does include some people with considerable experience, however, such as Trevor Mallard and Damien O'Connor, who are definitely old hands, and, of course, Jacinda Ardern, herself, Grant Robertson and others, they have already got the experience behind them now of dealing with considerable crises," Duncan said. 

"There is going to be an argument, however, as we get closer to the election as to whether Labour has the experience and whether their new bunch of MPs who are coming lack experience, I am sure this will be a target against Labour."

Other newcomers in high list positions include human rights lawyer Vanushi Walters at 23 and employment lawyer Camilla Belich at 32.