David Clark
© Getty Images
David Clark ignored his own government's rules to go mountain biking.
New Zealand's health minister has confirmed he ignored his own government's advice and drove to a park to go mountain biking.

David Clark was spotted parking his van at a car park 2.3km from his home in Dunedin, after the government instructed people to exercise locally amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A Toyota Hiace van, with Mr Clark's face on it, was photographed parked near Signal Hill Lookout this morning.

Mr Clark acknowledged that he had made the trip, saying he went for a bike ride between video conference meetings on Thursday afternoon.

"As health minister I try to model healthy behaviour and this afternoon I decided to fit in bike ride between video-conference meetings.

"This was my only chance to get out for some exercise in daylight hours," he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly advised people to stay local, and exercise only near their home.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush supported this, saying vehicles should only be used for grocery shopping or medical trips.

Mr Clark defended his actions, saying the 6km mountain bike trail, nicknamed "The Big Easy", was not a challenging course.

"I know that now is not the time for people to be engaging in higher-risk exercise activities," he said.

However, in December 2018, a cyclist who suffered a shoulder injury after falling on the trail had to be rescued by fire and ambulance crews and was carried down to the car park on a stretcher.

In October 2019 a young mountain biker was injured during a national schools championship at Signal Hill, and flown to Christchurch hospital.

"I don't want to give anyone the perception that I take these matters lightly," Mr Clark said.

"This is a reminder to me to think carefully about how best to fit some exercise into my new-normal routine."

New Zealand has been in lockdown due to Covid-19 for a week, with restrictions imposed on everyday activities and the closure of all non-essential businesses.

People have been told to only leave the house for essential needs, such as going to the supermarket, doctor, pharmacy or gas station - and to exercise locally.

"Personal walks and other active travel like cycling or scootering is fine... stick to simple outdoor exercise and avoid areas where you can get injured or lost," the Covid-19 government website says.

The lockdown is in place for four weeks at least and means everyone must stay home and self-isolate, apart from people considered to be part of "essential services".