“The Heron report into the Covid-19 patient data leak has revealed the extraordinary incompetence of a government that relies on kindness over competence,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The Government shouldn't need an inquiry to find out how the leak happened, it should already have known.

“If the Government had used a database, it would have known who had access to and downloaded the information. User access records would have allowed it to identify who had the information. User access control would have limited the number of people who had the information.

“The fact that patient data was being stored and distributed on an unlocked spreadsheet is extraordinary. A vaguely competent operation would have the spreadsheet locked.

“The health budget is $20 billion. After welfare, the Ministry of Health is managing the second largest budget in the country. It dwarfs Fonterra, Air New Zealand, Spark, or any other New Zealand entity. The idea that it can't use a database is extraordinary.

“A private business that made this mistake would face serious consequences for privacy breaches. Sadly, it appears the Ministry will face no accountability.

“In normal times, we could perhaps say that mistakes happen, but public health has been the clear focus of the Government for four months since the Prime Minister asked the whole country to stay home for five weeks. Fighting COVID-19 has been the total focus of more organised governments, such as Taiwan’s, for all of 2020.

“The real tragedy, though, is not this leak, but the effects of the leak on public confidence. At a time when we should be having an intelligent conversation about how we can safely reconnect with the rest of the world for our economic survival, the Government will no doubt resort to blunter public health measures.

“Responsibility for this failure must rest at the top. It’s not good enough to blame the Ministry of Health officials or any recent Minister of Health.

“The only way forward to an intelligent conversation about smart borders is now a change of government. We need a government that sets priorities and asks the right questions, rather than relying on kindness in place of competence.”