ZB

Barry Soper: Why there was no point sticking around for Ashley Bloomfield

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 Apr 2022, 7:21pm
(Photo / Pool)
(Photo / Pool)

Barry Soper: Why there was no point sticking around for Ashley Bloomfield

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 Apr 2022, 7:21pm

Sounding like the politician he's become, the country's best-known public servant Ashley Bloomfield announced he was standing aside to spend more time with the family.

But like all announcements of that sort there's much more to it than that.

The Prime Minister who at times privately had a fractious relationship with the Covid custodian laid it on with a trowel, saying she had come to know the Director-General probably better than any other public servant, describing him as a true servant of the public.

Jacinda Ardern talked of his sense of humour, which he'd need to have, even if she was on occasion the butt of his jokes, more times than she probably realises.

His resignation would have come as no surprise to her though, she'd been privately confiding since late last year that he'd be unlikely to serve out his contract which ends midway through next year.

And her observation also wouldn't have come as a surprise to any one of those she talked behind cupped hands to.

Bloomfield was being done out of a job, if he'd stuck around, he would have ended this year as a diminished general with few to direct - the guts of his job was disappearing.    

The Beehive was seeing to that with its drive to do away with the 20 District Health Boards and replace them with Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority. Their new bosses don't have a patch on his academic or practical background experience but they appeal to Ardern and that's important as she reshapes the public service.

The new head honchos in health are both middle-aged women, conveniently coming from demographics with the worst health outcomes, up until now.

New Zealand-born Samoan Margie Apa, currently about to be made redundant at the Counties Manukau DHB, will take over the big role at Health NZ. And Riana Manuel, a former nurse who worked her way up through Māori healthcare ranks takes over the other body.

They'll be living in what will be a Wellington powerhouse apparently, planning to become flatmates in the capital.

So essentially Bloomfield, a man who was privately described by those in the know as a control freak, could see the rug was being pulled from beneath him with the remnants he'd be left with resembling little more than a policy shop. He'd even lose control of the Covid calamity which gave him a public profile that no other public servant has ever managed to achieve.

For him, there was no point sticking around. At least he'll be better known and more qualified on the job market than the other 19 Health Board CEOs who will also soon be looking for work.