Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet seeks senior analyst to help curb spread of COVID-19 'disinformation'

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) is seeking a senior analyst to help curb the spread of COVID-19 "disinformation", an issue Jacinda Ardern expressed concern about a few weeks ago. 

The Wellington-based role, with a salary ranging from $95,000-$110,000, is advertised on TradeMe and is pitched as advancing an "ambitious, resilient and well-governed" New Zealand. Applications will close on Friday, it says. 

The analyst would work in the DPMC's COVID-19 group, which is described as being "guided by a mission to mobilise the collective capacity of government to eliminate COVID-19 while sustaining New Zealand's economy and social cohesion". 

"We are seeking to appoint at pace a fixed-term senior analyst whose role will be to actively monitor open source social media channels, to triage across these channels and to case-manage issues," the ad reads. 

"You will work as part of a small team in DPMC and connect in with a larger cross-government networks, working to respond to, and build resilience to, disinformation in New Zealand. You will be working in a fast-paced dynamic environment and have the opportunity to shape future capability development."

COVID-19 misinformation is an issue Ardern raised earlier this month when it was revealed that just 10 percent of Tauranga port workers who were possibly exposed to COVID-19 after boarding a ship with positive cases on board were fully vaccinated against the virus. 

Ardern blamed the spread of misinformation about the Pfizer vaccine, because the port workers had been offered the jab but had not taken up the offer. 

"We have always prioritised our front-line workers, and that has included our port workers, for vaccination. They have had vaccines available for some time," she said at the time

"What we have encountered, though, are a range of barriers to those individuals having a vaccination, and that includes, unfortunately, misinformation, hesitancy, and, of course, from the ports themselves a concern that mandating would destroy, potentially, supply lines."

Ardern said that didn't stop the Government from mandating vaccination for port workers. The Government issued a legal order last month requiring port workers to get the vaccine, or face losing their jobs.

All Government employees covered by the order would have to have a first dose by August 26, while privately employed border workers would have to have a first dose by September 30.

"Unfortunately, misinformation, hesitancy, has been a barrier we've faced. That, however, nonetheless, has not stopped us from now mandating it for this group of workers," Ardern said. "We'd put that mandate in some time ago."

Ardern said she couldn't "emphasise enough" how much misinformation puts people's health and wellbeing at risk. 

"You know, it's not just about our economy. Yes, that's incredibly important, but it's about saving people's lives, and to see the lack of responsibility from individuals who post information, let alone the sometimes lack of ownership from those platforms around helping better manage it is incredibly frustrating. 

"We're doing everything we can to provide people with all the information we need. We're trying to lead from the front. We're getting the vaccines ourselves; community leaders are as well. But we are still up against the battle where people are just being told absolute rubbish and it's incredibly hard."

More than 2.78 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date in New Zealand, of which 1.77 million are first doses and more than one million are second doses.