Health Minister David Clark has saved his job – despite lockdown breaches – and business adviser Rob Fyfe is apparently still in Government favour, despite not being thanked or acknowledged for his economic recovery work.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today it was “remiss of me” not to acknowledge the work of Fyfe, the former Air NZ CEO who worked without pay for eight weeks as business liaison at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.
The Herald revealed on Friday that the Prime Minister had effectively cold-shouldered Fyfe.
On May 18, Fyfe wrote to Jacinda Ardern letting her know that after eight weeks embedded in the Wellington Covid-19 operations command centre he proposed to return to his Auckland home.
Fyfe confirmed to the Herald that three weeks on the Prime Minister has yet to acknowledge his letter.
Nor had Ardern thanked him for the leadership he and his private-sector team brought to organising vital personal protection equipment for frontline health staff, ventilators and a world-class contact tracing app to cover clear inadequacies within the New Zealand health system.
“It was surprising,” said Fyfe.
Ardern told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking today that Fyfe had sent her an email in May – she did not see that as the end of their engagement together.
“We have been working on a way to formally acknowledge the people who have been working for us and with us. I have been in touch with him in the last couple of days. We are having a catch-up some time very soon.
“The job’s not done yet. Perhaps I viewed his ongoing role a little differently… perhaps he thought he was exiting and I didn’t.
“Rob still has an ongoing role he can play, so I didn’t see it as a conclusion.
“It was remiss of me not to publicly acknowledge him in between times given he thought he was concluding. He’s played an important role.”
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Ardern also confirmed Clark would stay in his role as Health Minister, despite saying earlier he would have been sacked for lockdown breaches if the country was not in the middle of dealing with a pandemic.
Clark drove to a beach during lockdown and to a mountain-bike park on another occasion.
“I deem it necessary for him to be the Minister of Health,” Ardern said today.
“I stand by the decision I made at that time.
“We have had a very successful response and David Clark has been part of leading that.”
The country was also about to unveil health reforms that he needed to lead.
“If you are asking me if, because we are out of lockdown, I am revising that decision [not to sack him], I am not.”
The Government has announced a $60 million injection to councils and KiwiRail to create 800 new jobs nationwide for New Zealanders impacted by Covid-19.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said as part of the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) reset $60m would be allocated for road and rail projects across the country that will focus on worker redeployment.
“This is made up of $27.2m for local roading projects, $26m for rail projects and nearly $6.8m for the Ministry of Social Development to support workers into training to take up these jobs.”
He said this meant at least 800 New Zealanders in need of employment due to the economic effects of Covid-19 could now be employed into work in their own communities.
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“Our aim is to put in place measures to soften the impact on workers and businesses in some of the most affected areas, and in sectors where jobs have been lost and most in need of support.”
Jones said the local councils and KiwiRail projects were providing vital support to regional economies that will provide immediate jobs and have high visibility to boost public confidence in the economic recovery.
“This latest investment is in addition to the $100 million earmarked for worker redeployment, of which $28m has already been allocated to Tairawhiti, $6.2m nationally for forestry workers and $36.7m to other regions hard hit by the effects of Covid-19.”
The funding for roading projects means work could start almost immediately on improving roads, cycleways, tree maintenance and water projects in seven regions.
These are in the Bay of Plenty, the West Coast, Manawatu-Whanganui, Wairarapa, Taranaki, top of the South Island and Waikato.
The rail investment means work could start early next month on culvert clearing and drainage improvements on regional railway lines.
KiwiRail will be working with the Ministry of Social Development to take on and train new regional rail workers.
• Bay of Plenty – $12.55m for footpaths, the Motu cycleway extension, a horse trail, tree and pest removal, track and park maintenance, water projects and roading (291 jobs)
• Manawatu-Whanganui – $5.52m for roading, cycle trails, tree removal and firewood supply (159 jobs)
• West Coast – $1.9m for planting projects in the Buller district and work on the Greymouth Reservoir Replacement Project (30 jobs)
• Wairarapa – $1m for tree removal and maintenance on high-risk roads (10 jobs)
• Taranaki – $1.12m for road safety (12 jobs)
• Top of the South – $2.73m for roading, cycle ways, drainage clearance, tree clearance and planting (65 jobs)
• Waikato – $2.39m for cycleways and tree removal (72 jobs)
• Projects include drain and culvert condition surveys, culvert cleaning and maintenance, vegetation control and drainage renewals and improvements.
• The work will take place around rail lines from the Waikato to Wairarapa, and in Canterbury, West Coast and Otago-Southland.
• The investment will create work for 200 people, including new rail trainees, local regional contractors, and redeployed KiwiRail staff.