The chief executive of the Ministry of Transport, Peter Mersi, is being seconded to head up the Covid-19 All-of-Government Response Group (CARG), starting on Monday.

Mersi's role at CARG is at chief executive level within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC). That agency has grown so large that it was felt that the job of DPMC chief executive Brook Barrington should be split, with Mersi focusing on covid.

The role is expected to last until the end of June, making him the key public servant coordinating the government’s response during the peak of omicron.

Mersi told BusinessDesk he was stepping aside from his current role for the short term to help the government answer some important questions.

“If you think about omicron, we're hitting into the peak right now. At some point, we're going to come out of it. 

"What does that new world look like? How much of it is BAU? What sort of capability do we need to be able to respond to, for example, a [new] variant?

“Those are the questions that I've been asked to help bring a whole-of-government perspective to.”

Mersi said there's a lot of work to do to think about what the all of government response needs to be in the new omicron world.

“They felt it was it was better to have someone who could focus on it completely, rather than ask Brook, who was trying to juggle 16 balls at once,” said Mersi.

The covid part of the DPMC role had been led by the chief executive of Customs, Christine Stevenson, who is now returning to her role at the border agency.

The response group is responsible for integrating strategy and policy, system readiness and planning, insights and reporting, system risk and assurance, and public engagement and communications.

As part of the CARG role, Mersi will chair two groupings of public sector chief executives: the National Response Leadership Team and the Covid Chief Executive Board.

Cheryl Barnes remains as deputy chief executive of CARG, and Bryn Gandy will be acting chief executive of the transport ministry in Mersi’s absence.