The Prime Minister has effectively cold-shouldered top businessman Rob Fyfe, who worked without pay for eight weeks as business liaison at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.
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 has 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," was Fyfe's comment.
He has clearly been frustrated by the opacity of the Wellington bureaucracy and saw that his ability to add value was diminishing as government officials returned to work during alert level 2.
Irrespective of what appears to be a prime ministerial cold shoulder, Fyfe says his offer remains to continue to assist Ardern with the challenges that Covid-19 will bring for years to come.
He had earlier written to Ardern in mid-April congratulating her on the success of her leadership and the importance of building an effective Covid-19 early detection and rapid response system so New Zealand could operate successfully in a global environment where the coronavirus might not be constrained for four or five years.
A project team from Fyfe's Prime Sector Group led by businessman Sam Morgan has developed a Bluetooth-enabled CovidCard to enhance digital contact tracing so that New Zealand can open its borders earlier with a higher degree of certainty that any incidental migration of the coronavirus into New Zealand can be stamped out quickly.
Fyfe remains concerned that the current government Covid-19 system - which is reliant on either signing into business places or scanning QR codes - is not up to the job.
The project team put a paper up to DPMC boss Brook Barrington on June 5. This has since been conveyed to Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
Fyfe remains extremely concerned that the significant competitive advantage that New Zealand has achieved through tackling the virus will be squandered if further steps are not taken.
He told the Herald he has recommended five priorities: The need for New Zealand to adopt new social norms - including distancing; an intelligent virus-free border; daily health check-ins to drive detection at the earliest sign of symptoms; a high-speed and high-accuracy testing system for the Covid-19 virus; and a system for instant tracing and rapid isolation of close contacts of those affected.
He has recommended to Ardern that the Government invest in and retain a central operational leadership unit with accountability to drive delivery of all elements of this early detection and rapid-response system, with clearly defined, agreed and measurable performance.
Fyfe's letter was copied into Robertson, with whom he says he had a "very good interaction" during his sojourn in Wellington.
He earlier warned business to make plans to work for some time in a global Covid-19 environment in an interview with the Herald.
A spokesperson said that the Prime Minister "has publicly acknowledged and thanked him".