The Government in Action – September 13

Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission appointed


A key coalition commitment to re-establish the mental health commission, negotiated by New Zealand First, is on its way to being realised.

Appointees to the board of the initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission were announced by the Coalition Government this week. The initial Commission will lay the foundation for the establishment of the permanent Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission in February 2021.

The initial commission will:

  • Provide independent scrutiny of the Government’s progress in improving New Zealand’s mental health and wellbeing
  • Promote collaboration between mental health and wellbeing entities
  • Develop advice for the permanent Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission so it can make swift progress once it has been established, including a work programme, outcomes and monitoring framework

The Government has appointed Hayden Wano as the Chair of the initial Commission and four other members. Mr Wano is of Te Atiawa, Taranaki and Ngāti Awa descent and brings over 40 years’ health sector experience in mental health, community and medical services to this role.

“The Coalition Government is engaging the best expertise to get this flagship New Zealand First policy off the ground and drive the improvements in the mental health system all Kiwis want to see,” said New Zealand First health spokesperson Jenny Marcroft.

The previous National Government closed down the Mental Health Commission in 2012, while demand for mental health services increased by 70 per cent during their tenure.



Resource Management Review Panel announced


David Parker has announced the Resource Management Review Panel for the comprehensive review of the RMA that he announced in July.

The Chair, Hon Tony Randerson QC, will be joined by Amelia Linzey, Dean Kimpton, Kevin Prime, Rachel Brooking and Raewyn Peart.

“The members are high-calibre experts in planning, environmental management, resource management law, te ao Māori, local government and infrastructure development,” David Parker said.



Increased access to mental health services


The Coalition Government has begun the roll out of the free mental healthcare package by signing contracts that will ensure 170,000 New Zealanders continue to receive mental health support at their local medical centre.

$6 million of funding has been confirmed for existing, but currently unfunded, mental health services at 22 general practices and a kaupapa Māori provider spread across seven District Health Boards. This is the first major investment in primary mental health from Budget 2019. The Ministry of Health will issue its Request for Proposals shortly to begin rolling out new free front line mental health services worth a further $30 million in new areas starting early 2020. 

“We’re committed to taking mental health and addiction seriously. Over the next five years we’re rolling out free frontline services across the country so that anyone in distress can easily access free support,” Jacinda Ardern said.



Suicide Prevention Office


The Coalition Government has announced a Suicide Prevention Office will be established to coordinate action already underway to reduce New Zealand’s historically high rate of suicide.

This week the Every Life Matters - The Suicide Prevention Strategy 2019–2029 and Action Plan 2019–2024 for Aotearoa New Zealand was unveiled as a part of the Suicide Prevention office.

The Plan has three main focus areas:

  • Promoting wellbeing
  • Responding to suicidal distress and behaviour
  • Supporting individuals, whānau and communities after a suicide

The Suicide Prevention Office provides a focus for the range of on the ground initiatives contained in the Plan that it will take to reduce the number of New Zealanders taking their own life

As well as rolling out new frontline mental health services in places like GP clinics the Coalition Government has already started to tackle this problem with a range of initiatives underway to reduce the number of suicides, including:

  • Increasing suicide prevention services in DHBs, including more post-discharge support
  • Supporting tailored Māori and Pacific suicide prevention initiatives
  • Funding to improve support for 15,000 people who turn up at hospital emergency departments experiencing a mental health crisis or at risk of suicide
  • Expanding the information and resources available to family and whānau of those experiencing suicidal distress
  • Funding free counselling for 2,500 people (per year) bereaved by suicide, whom research shows can be vulnerable to suicidal thoughts themselves.

“Our rate of suicide is a long-term national tragedy and has been for many years. Change will take time but this plan and the actions the Government has already in place are an important start,” Jacinda Arden said.


(Click here to watch Jenny Marcroft MP discuss the Suicide Prevention Office with mental health advocate Mike King)



Multi-agency response to identify risks from legacy landfills


Risks from existing and legacy landfills will be identified in a multi-agency project led by the Ministry for the Environment and 16 regional councils, in collaboration with Local Government New Zealand and the Department of Conservation.

Getting a better picture of the risks associated with current and closed landfills is an issue that needs to be addressed. The extreme storm event in March which led to the exposure and erosion of a closed Council landfill at Fox River was a wake-up call. It highlighted the importance of knowing where closed landfills are, their vulnerabilities and how to reduce their exposure to natural hazards and potential impacts from a changing climate.

This project, which involves key agencies from local and central government, will help us to understand what needs to be done to avoid another Fox River.

Work to reduce the risk from vulnerable landfills could include protection from erosion, better containment of the site, or even removal of the contents of the landfill.



Government launches consultation on suite of environmental reforms


Public meetings will be held in more than 20 places over the next three weeks to provide information and seek feedback on reforms to the way we manage our freshwater, elite soils, urban environment, waste and hazardous substances.

The Government is working across numerous portfolios to protect and improve our environment, transition New Zealand to a low emissions future and ensure the economy thrives within environmental limits, while enhancing New Zealanders’ wellbeing.



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