Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says he has "mixed feelings" about stepping down from his role in July, but believed it was the right time to take a break and spend more time with his family.
Bloomfield's departure was announced in a media release on Tuesday morning.
At Tuesday's Covid-19 media conference, he said it felt like the time was right for him to step down.
"It’s a complex and challenging role at any time and I don’t think the last two years could’ve been any more challenging. I’ve been thinking for a while about when might be the best time for me to step down. It seems we’re at a good point in terms of the pandemic, the response is shifting.
"My family will certainly be pleased to have more of my time, I just felt it was the right time. It is with very mixed feelings because I work with amazing people. I feel very sad that in four months' time I’ll be leaving them in someone else’s care."
Bloomfield came to public prominence in early 2020 at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. He's become a familiar face to Kiwis at press conferences over the past two years - leading Aoteroa's response to the pandemic.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins thanked Bloomfield for his tireless work over the past two years to assist the Government in its Covid-19 response.
"His workload has been enormous and it hasn’t just been to Covid-19, and in fact his entire life has been dedicated to the health and well-being of New Zealanders," Hipkins said.
"You have saved thousands if not tens of thousands of lives."
Hipkins respected Bloomfield's decision to take a break and wished him well for the future.
"It’s been an incredible couple of years. You have an opportunity to go out and spread your wings and I know that New Zealanders will join me in saying that you thoroughly deserve that," Hipkins said.
The Covid-19 Response Minister then joked he wouldn't mind catching up for a game of cards at some point.
"Should you decide to spend some of your new spare time taking up cards, let me know because I have to say you’ve got a rubbish poker face," Hipkins laughed.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern thanked Bloomfield in a social media post for his "tireless dedication".
"There's not many public servants I have got to know as well as Dr Ashley Bloomfield. In every sense of the word - through his tireless dedication, his focus on people, his calm and considered approach - he has been a true public servant.
"He has been central to our Covid success as a nation, and he's done it with humour and grace. When we spoke about his decision to move on, he mentioned that he wanted to spend time with his family, and that's the least we owe him."
Bloomfield's Future plans
Bloomfield said he wouldn't be moving into another role immediately, but would instead be taking "an extended break".
"Some time out to really let go. The pandemic is something you take with you 24/7 even when you’re on holiday.
"I’m a public servant through and through so that will be steering what my next steps are."
When asked if there was any chance of him running for Parliament, Bloomfield replied "not a jot".