PM hires Rob Fyfe back to business advisory role

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Jul 2020, 7:19PM
Businessman Rob Fyfe at home, pictured for a Canvas Magazine feature. 10 December 2017 New Zealand Herald photograph by Doug Sherring.

PM hires Rob Fyfe back to business advisory role

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Jul 2020, 7:19PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed former Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe back as her Government's Covid-19 advisor to the private sector.

Fyfe had been in the role during the lockdown and acted as a liaison between the Government and businesses.

He finished up in that roll in mid-May.

But, speaking to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce this morning, Ardern revealed she had asked Fyfe to come back into the role.

"I am more aware than ever, and always have been, that in central Government we are not the keeper of all of the answers to the problems we face," Ardern said.

She said Fyfe played a critical role when it came to the Government's relationship with the private sector during the Covid-19 response period.

"I want to make sure that even while we are in the midst of an election period, we are continuing to reach out to the private sector."

Speaking to media after Ardern's speech Fyfe said the role has changed since he was in it last.

Instead of focusing on responding to the immediate crisis, Fyfe said he would now be focusing on the "strategic future" of New Zealand and the rebuilding of the country.

He has been contracted to work in the job into next year – he was not paid for his previous work during the lockdown period.

"The Prime Minister said she prefers to be paying me for my time in this role because it's likely to run over a more extended period of time," he said this morning.

Fyfe said this morning that creating travel bubbles – specifically citing Australia – would be "enormously valuable for the economy".

"I think that is vital – but we would be mad to do it until we can do it safely.

"If we get Covid back in here, if we have to go back into another lockdown that would be disastrous for not just the economy, but our sanity as well."

After he finished the job last time, he said he and Ardern "continued a dialogue in the background".

"She was keen, as soon as she had clarity, around how they were going to focus on the next phase; she was very keen to involve me in that."

Fyfe wrote to Ardern on May 18 to tell her that after eight weeks embedded in the Covid-19 command centre in Wellington, he was returning home.

But in an interview with the Herald, Fyfe said that Ardern had not acknowledged him for his role.

In addition, she had not thanked him for the leadership he and his team provided during the unprecedented time.

"It was surprising," he said at the time.

Ardern said at the time that it was "remiss of me not to acknowledge the work of Fyfe".

This morning, when asked about this, he said he had told Ardern that he had completed his assignment and made some suggestions about moving into the next phase.

But he said Ardern "wasn't ready at that time to respond to that" but she is now.

"She is now moving at pace to put that planning framework in place."