13 Aug 2021

Covid-19 advisor for the government recommends stand-alone agency, again

11:47 am on 13 August 2021

An adviser to the government for its Covid-19 response responsibility for dealing with the pandemic needs to be handed from the Ministry of Health to a stand-alone agency.

NZTA Chairman Sir Brian Roche

Sir Brian Roche. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Sir Brian Roche told Morning Report he had advised the government a stand-alone agency was needed and ministers would be considering that over coming months.

"That's been advice that I've put to the government and it's something that we're actively looking at. It was seen as a short-term intervention that you know 'we [the Ministry of Health] will deal with this Covid stuff and then we'll move on'.

"I think it is now clear that this will be with us for many, many years, so the argument, I think, for having a stand alone agency is a very live one ... what we're saying is it needs to be accountable for our preparedness - all of our planning and and oversight of the execution - in the same way that we have a national emergency management office that says if there's an incident in Westport, you know, somebody is on the ground to mobilise.

"That's the sort of model, whether it's a Crown agency or department or whatever, I'm not sure is as important as what is its function and particularly how is it gonna deploy resources?"

Advice to set up a stand alone agency was given at the end of 2020 and it was being "actively pursued again as recently as two days ago", Roche said.

That advice comes in the wake of the release of the government's risk-based plan for re-opening the borders in 2022.

But the government dismissed calls for a stand-alone agency.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the responsibility was best placed with the ministry.

"It is going to be bringing in quite wide range of information. Fundamentally though, it's a health assessment," Hipkins said.

The ministry already had a unit with a dedicated focus on the pandemic, he said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs