The apologies have been profuse from our freewheeling Minister of Health after he - somewhat belatedly - admitted repeated breaches of the level 4 restrictions intended to reduce the impact of a Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Yesterday, David Clark was summarily stripped of his Front Bench ranking for driving his family 20km to a beach to go for a walk in the first weekend of the lockdown - a breach for which the Prime Minister conceded he would, in normal circumstances, be sacked.
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"At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices, I've let the team down. I've been an idiot," Clark, 47, said in a statement. In this, at least, he's not wrong. His earlier admission of driving his overtly visible MP's vehicle more than 2km to cycle on mountain bike trail during the lockdown was already one strike.
Rather than sack him immediately, Jacinda Ardern demoted the wayward member for Dunedin North to the bottom of the Cabinet drawer and stripped him of his Associate Finance portfolio. He has remained in the Health Minister's post only because removing him would disrupt our response to the coronavirus. "He's paid a personal price," Ardern said yesterday afternoon, "I am adamant our health system will not."
Few would not concede there is unprecedented pressure on our officials in this time of crisis. The requirements this situation demands would be beyond anything anyone would have anticipated even a scant few weeks ago.
Clark's desire for palliative exercise - physical, psychological and emotional - must have been hugely enticing for a former cyclist and ironman. But he would have well known that others were also itching to stretch their legs and feel a sea breeze on their face.
The timing could perhaps have not been worse for Ardern. As Herald columnist Matthew Hooton pointed out yesterday - before the beach soiree came to light - "we are ... hearing a bit less from the Prime Minister about being kind and a bit more about arrests".
Hooton also noted Ardern would have been keen to send a message to those who are following orders that their sacrifices are appreciated, and defectors are not.
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The fact is, not disciplining Clark would make it very difficult for our authorities to discipline anyone else. The stakes render Clark's actions inexcusable and Ardern's hand was forced.
The whole episode is particularly disappointing for the former Presbyterian minister and Treasury analyst, who had previously distinguished himself well and showed much more promise.
It would take Clark an extraordinary amount of contrition and dedication to rise again in Cabinet - so much so, it would seem most unlikely. Be that as it may, for the potential he still has to contribute to fighting this virus, and for the nation's future, it's to be hoped he brings his attentions back into focus immediately.