PoliticsOctober 3, 2020

Election 2020: The health policies in two minutes


Voting is under way in the New Zealand general election. Explore the main parties’ pledges at Policy.nz, but here’s a whistle-stop tour of what’s on offer in the world of health.

Read more two-minute policy wraps here

Over 2020, the New Zealand public has learned what “PPE” means; the director general of health became a revered symbol of stoic kindness, and virology has become a hotly contested field of study. But Covid-19 isn’t the only issue with the health system.

With the release of the Heather Simpson health and disability review this year calling for a restructure of DHBs, mounting pressure to improve mental health services, and ongoing problems over this term about how health equity can be achieved, there’s a lot of ground for parties to cover.

Public health services

The Heather Simpson review earlier this year recommended consolidating our DHBs from 20 down to between eight and 12, and both National and Labour are committed to doing this. 

Act would cut DHBs down further, to just six boards, and combine 12 DHB-owned public health units into a one centralised national public health service. 

National would increase funding to Pharmac by $140 million over four years, and would extend the reach of Whānau Ora but review its commissioning model.

Labour would increase funding to Pharmac by $200 million over the same period, and would complete bargaining to achieve pay equity for nurses and DHB administration and clerical staff.

The Green Party would establish safe zones around abortion clinics and increase funding for Family Planning.

NZ First would increase funding for St John ambulances.

The Māori Party would issue a health card to all Māori that ensures health funding follows the patient and not a DHB or a primary care service, and would increase funding to Whānau Ora.

Dental health

National would increase funding for children by $30 million per year in a plan that would include giving each child an annual toothbrush and toothpaste, and offer them a free fluoride varnish. Schools, kindergartens, and parents can all opt out of the programme.

Labour would increase the emergency oral health grant – available to those who meet the threshold for a special needs grant – from $300 to $1,000. It would also provide 20 more mobile dental clinics across the country, and work with dental providers and DHBs to create regional preferred supplier lists. 

The Green Party would look into a levy on sugary drinks to further fund dental care.

The Opportunities Party (TOP) would provide free dental care to anyone under 18 or on a low income.

Pregnancy and sexual health

National would fund a three-day postnatal stay for all new mothers at a care facility of their choice, and provide home visiting programmes to new mothers under 20 with an aim to increase the number who achieve NCEA and post-secondary education.

National would provide expecting mothers with $3,000 to pay for certain services in their child’s first 1,000 days.

National would transition to HPV self-tests within the first term of government.

Labour would increase the number of maternal respite beds by 12, and invest an additional $20 million in nurse family partnerships; nurses who provide support to families with mental health or addiction issues.

The Green Party would increase funding for family planning clinics and for pregnancy and postnatal care. It would also prioritise the needs of intersex, transgender, and nonbinary people; the only party to state it would do so.

The New Conservatives would reverse the Abortion Legislation Act 2020, criminalising abortion once again, and would require parental consent for medical procedures on children under 16. It would also redirect funding for gender reassignment surgery into counselling for “gender dysphoria”.

New authorities

The Simpson review recommended the establishment of a Māori health authority, and that’s what Labour and the Greens would work towards. The new authority’s work will be influenced by Whakamaua, the Māori Health Action Plan, and would be funded from the $120 million over four years Labour has committed for health system oversight.

Labour would also establish a public health agency as suggested by the Simpson review, which would be funded from that same pool of $120 million.

Labour would fund Ola Manuia, the Pacific Health and Wellbeing Plan 2020-2025, to the tune of $20 million.

National would pass a law to establish a national cancer agency in its first 100 days in office, with an interim agency board functioning for the first two years. This agency would be separate from the Ministry of Health and district boards, and would cover cancer prevention, screening, treatment and research. The party estimates this policy would cost $10 million per year.

The Māori Party would establish a Māori Health Funding Authority to oversee the purchasing, distribution and operational delivery of the per capita budget health entitlement of Māori. The budget for this would be $5 billion.

The Green Party would establish community hubs at schools to deliver health-related services but also a more holistic range of services including internet access and early childhood and adult education.

Alcohol and drugs

National would deploy the Matrix model, a 20-week group therapy and drug testing pilot programme targeting methamphetamine addiction, and ensure each DHB has at least one methamphetamine detox bed – 13 in total – and that a specialist would be available for an in-patient detoxing to work with.

The party would expand specialist courts for drugs and alcohol, and engage with Māori services like Te Ara Oranga in Northland to learn from their experience of alcohol addiction.

Labour would train 12,000 mental health and addiction support workers over the next three years, and would provide more home and community services and peer support for alcohol and drug use.

The Green Party would legalise and fund drug-checking services like Know Your Stuff, increase funding for health and rehabilitation support, and restrict advertising for alcohol at sport and cultural events.

Act would relax restrictions on vaping, allowing businesses to decide if they will allow it on the premises. More on Act’s approach here can be found under “mental health”.

New Zealand First would remove tax from smoking cessation tools, and lower the excise on cigarettes themselves.

The New Conservatives would criminalise being drunk and disorderly in public.

Mental health

National would establish a minister for mental health, and would fund 100,000 free counselling sessions to address the “mental distress caused by Covid-19”.

It would also fund the expansion of mental health facilities in policing, like the St John’s co-response pilot programme that had police and St John staff both respond to mental health call-outs.

Labour would expand Canterbury’s Mana Ake programme nationwide over the next five years, and would train 12,000 new community-based mental health and addiction support workers over the next three years.

The Green Party would extend free counselling to anyone under 25, and improve postnatal mental health services. 

Act would replace the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission with a new commission that would not provide treatment, but would contract out to providers.

NZ First would fund Gumboot Friday with $10 million over three years.

The Māori Party would establish a kaupapa Māori mental health service that would focus on lowering suicide rates.


This will be covered in more detail in Justin Giovannetti’s Covid-19 response policy round-up in the coming week, but the crux of it is that both National and Labour have committed to the improvement of testing and contact tracing, and both would look into developing technology to meet these challenges.

National is a little more specific around the technological options, suggesting a Bluetooth application and a “Covid card” for contact tracing. 

NZ First would establish a “New Zealand border protection force” combining the functions of the defence force, the customs service, and Immigration NZ.

Labour and National would fine isolation and quarantine escapees, and Act would imprison them.

The Green Party would increase sick days from five to 10, which it says is vital to retaining income should someone contract the virus; but this policy is not contingent on the threat of Covid-19 remaining.

Explore the parties’ pledges in more depth at Policy. The essential campaign dates are hereFor all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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