Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall orders advert featuring her taken down after questioning from National

Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall orders advert featuring her taken down after questioning from National
Photo credit: Newshub


The Health Minister has ordered an advertisement she features in to be taken down, following questioning from National.

Dr Ayesha Verrall was featured in a profile piece in Te Whatu Ora Southern's 'Better Health February 2023' newsletter, titled 'New Health Minister reveals strong Southern roots'.

The piece details Verrall's Southern upbringing and health background, mostly containing details she gave in her maiden speech to Parliament in December 2020.

"She remembers her father trying to instill his love of the outdoors, and recalled crossing the Eglington River, scrambling up Dore Pass and waking in freezing Department of Conservation huts to see the sun touch the mountain tops," the article reads, lifted almost verbatim from Dr Verrall's maiden speech.

But it appears the piece was re-published, along with other features from that month's newsletter, in the Otago Daily Times.

On 21 February, National's Chris Bishop submitted a Written Parliamentary Question (WPQ), asking "Did Te Whatu Ora pay for the full-page newspaper spread with the story 'New Health Minister reveals strong Southern roots'; if so, how much did it cost, what newspapers did it appear in, and what was the rationale for this?"

He submitted a further WPQ on 9 March, asking when he could expect a reply to his first question.

RNZ has seen a copy of Verrall's answer to Chris Bishop's WPQ, which will officially be added to Parliament's record.

"I was not aware of the advertisement, and did not approve it. The first I learned of this matter is through a Written Parliamentary Question," her reply said.

Verrall said Te Whatu Ora Southern sought approval from her office to use a profile of her in the advertisement, but the approval was mistakenly given by a former staffer, who did not seek her approval.

"I would not have approved the profile because I do not believe it is an appropriate use of public funding," her reply said.

Verrall has told her current ministerial staff and Te Whatu Ora it was inappropriate, and has asked for all online versions of the article to be removed.

It no longer shows up on the Otago Daily Times' website (a Google search showed the headline on the website, but the piece was no longer at the link), though as of Friday afternoon it was still on Te Whatu Ora's website.