6 Apr 2020

Bridges defends Wellington to Tauranga commute

1:23 pm on 6 April 2020

The opposition leader is defending his decision to commute between Wellington and his home in Tauranga during the Covid-19 lockdown.

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Opposition leader Simon Bridges. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Simon Bridges is chairing the Epidemic Response Committee, which meets each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

While MPs are joining the meeting remotely via Zoom, Bridges is working out of Parliament, and driving himself back to Tauranga for the rest of the week.

Bridges said just as the prime minister has a bubble at Premier House and the Beehive, he has a bubble at Parliament, and his home.

"I don't take these things lightly, but I am the leader of the opposition, I've got constitutional duties, I'm running a committee in extreme circumstances where there is no Parliament.

"I have to do that in the best way possible and it seems to me that does mean doing it in Parliament where I have the resources, where I can do it in a professional way, and I'm available to media," he said.

Bridges said he did not have concerns about his travel going against the advice not to take long road trips during the lockdown, because his role is essential.

He said he did not consider relocating his family to Wellington for the shutdown, saying that this was "absolutely an appropriate way to organise things" and no different to what other senior politicians and officials are doing.

Bridges said he had not spoken to the Speaker about his travel arrangements.

"I don't think he has any role whatsoever in this. I'm the leader fo the opposition, I've got constitutional duties here in the absence of Parliament, and so that's what I'm doing," he said.

Other National MPs on the Epidemic Response Committee were also in Parliament last week, including Whangārei MP Shane Reti, and Taupō MP Louise Upston.

Bridges said they were there for the "same reasons I've given", but said that this week he would be the only committee member in Parliament.

He couldn't confirm if that would be the case for the rest of the lockdown.

"I don't know, I suppose that's ultimately for each individual Member of Parliament in terms of how they do it, but as far as I see it it's likely to simply be me," Bridges said.

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