New Zealand Mountain Biker Heli-Rescued Amidst National Lockdown, Health Minister Shamed for Riding

A mountain biker had to be rescued from the trail in New Zealand over the weekend, while the nation's health minister was shamed for driving to go for a ride.
File photo

Most mountain bikers have heard through some form of media that it is best to stay close to home, and ride easier while the world rides out the novel coronavirus pandemic, but not everyone has taken the message to heart.

In Wellington, New Zealand, a mountain biker dismissed the warning during a national level 4 lockdown for the pandemic, and put unneeded strain on the country’s emergency services.

The New Zealand Herald reports that a Life Flight Westpac crew had to respond to a report of a mountain biker who had “sustained a serious leg injury,” on Sunday afternoon.

Currently, cycling or mountain biking are both allowed under the country’s restrictions, but like other nations, New Zealand governments and mountain bike clubs have recommended that riders go easy in order to avoid a trip to the hospital, which would put more strain on the healthcare system.

This particular rider ended up 200 meters off the trail in what responders call “thick native bush.” The Life Flight Westpac team winched a paramedic below the helicopter, executed the rescue, and took the mountain biker to a hospital.

Although mountain biking is allowed, it’s clear that not everyone has the same freedom. Last week, also in New Zealand, David Clark, the nation’s health minister drove a reported 2km to a nearby trailhead. A local citizen saw his government van in the lot, took a picture, and reported the official to a local media organization.

When the word got out, Clark confirmed that he had indeed gone mountain biking.

“This was my only chance to get out for some exercise in daylight hours … The track itself is not challenging, and is widely used by families and foot traffic. I know that now is not the time for people to be engaging in higher-risk exercise activities,” Clark told The Guardian.

“I don’t want to give anyone the perception that I take these matters lightly. This is a reminder to me to think carefully about how best to fit some exercise into my new-normal routine.”

Clark apologized to Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister. Ardern said that the health minister plays a role in setting the standards that New Zealanders are asked to follow, and that citizens should avoid activities with a higher risk of injury.