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Ardern defends Dr Bloomfield over accepting cricket tickets

The Prime Minister has defended Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield after he admitted he should have refused an invitation to the New Zealand v Australia international cricket match in Wellington last week.

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The Director-General of Health says he should have refused tickets for Sunday’s NZ v Australia T20 in Wellington. Source: 1 NEWS

"I don’t think anyone in New Zealand would want to deny Dr Bloomfield the chance to watch some cricket," Ardern said, after being asked if it were appropriate.

"And so I think I take a very simple view on that."

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The Government’s currently considering whether people who represent NZ overseas, including cricketers, should get priority access to vaccines. Source: 1 NEWS

Dr Bloomfield spoke with NZ Cricket chief executive David White while there, and was lobbied about the Black Caps getting Covid-19 vaccine doses. He has since denied he made any promises.

"I think if someone raises a question mark over travel and vaccinations, I don’t immediately take the view that anyone had any ill intent with that, certainly not Dr Bloomfield," Ardern said. 

'I was incorrect' — Ashley Bloomfield admits he was wrong to accept invitation to NZ cricket match

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he did not "necessarily think it's a problem for him to go to the cricket".

"I have absolute trust in his professional integrity."

Dr Bloomfield put out a statement today, saying he was incorrect in previously stating he went to Wellington's Sky Stadium in a private capacity. 

NZ Cricket lobbied Bloomfield at T20 for Black Caps to be made Covid vaccine priority

"As I clarified earlier yesterday, I am in the role of the Director-General of Health every day," Dr Bloomfield wrote in the statement. 

"I recognise that the invitation was extended to me because I am in that position. It is important that I avoid any potential for perception of a conflict of interest or personal benefit.

"I thought I was acting within the Public Service Commission Guidelines on Chief Executive Gifts, Benefits and Expenses guidelines. On re-reading the guidelines, I now accept that declaring the complimentary tickets to the game on a gift register was insufficient and that they should have been refused, as they will be from now on.

"I have clarified this with the Public Service Commissioner. I have donated the price of the tickets, and also the price of tickets to two Hurricanes games last year (also previously declared), to Wellington City Mission."

Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes said that "Dr Bloomfield has clarified the situation, which is the right thing to do, and as far as I'm concerned that is the end of the matter".