Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says “nothing is off the table” for the more than $6M Ministerial Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. Health Central gives you a quick summary of what is currently on the table.

Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction

The Basics

  • The Inquiry will be chaired by former Health and Disability Commissioner Professor Ron Patterson with the support of five other inquiry members (see members bios below).
  • The inquiry team is due to report back to the Government no later than October 31 this year.
  • The catalyst for the Inquiry was widespread concern about mental health services from within the sector itself and the broader community leading to a call for a wide-ranging inquiry.
  • Key Drivers of the Inquiry are: “addressing inequalities in mental health and addiction outcomes” (particularly poorer outcomes for Māori), “underfunding of mental health and addiction services”, “stubbornly high suicide rates” and “growing substance abuse”. (Also addressing the disproportionately poorer mental health experienced by Pacific and youth, people with disabilities, the rainbow/LGBTIQ community, the prison population and refugees.)
  • Aims include helping produce an accurate picture of how well New Zealand’s current mental health and addiction services are working as a baseline for proposing a pathway for improvements.
  • Minister of Health David Clark is the appointing minister of the Inquiry but it will be funded and administer by the Department of Internal Affairs which will receive an extra $6.5 million to cover the Inquiry costs.

Purpose of Inquiry

  • Hear the voices of the community (including consumers, families and providers of services) on New Zealand’s current approach to mental health and addiction and what needs to change.
  • Report on how New Zealand is preventing mental health and addiction problems and responding to people’s needs.
  • Identify unmet needs (across full spectrum from mental distress to enduring psychiatric illness) and which groups of people present the ‘greatest opportunity’ to make a difference to.
  • Consider previous investigations, reviews, reports and consultation processes relating to mental health and addiction including the Peoples’ Mental Health Report (2017) and Blueprint II: Improving mental health and wellbeing for all New Zealanders (2012).
  • Recommend specific changes to New Zealand’s approach to mental health – with a particular focus on equity of access, community confidence in system and better outcomes for Māori and other groups with disproportionally poorer outcomes.
  • Inform the Government’s decisions on future arrangements for mental health and addiction system including:
  • The re-establishment of Mental Health Commission
  • Improved co-ordination between health and other systems including education, welfare and ACC
  • Fiscal approaches, models and funding arrangements
  • Workforce planning, training support and management

Scope of Inquiry: 

  • Mental health problems across the full spectrum from mental distress to enduring psychiatric illness
  • Mental health and addiction needs from the perspective of both identifying and responding to people with mental health and addiction problems AND preventing mental health problems and promoting mental well-being prevention of suicide
  • Activities directly related to mental health and addiction undertaken within the broader health and disability sector (in community, primary and secondary care), as well as the education, justice and social sectors and through the accident compensation and wider workplace relations and safety systems
  • Opportunities to build on the efforts of whanau.

Inquiry Members:

Professor Ron Paterson (CHAIR) was Health and Disability Commissioner from 2000-2010 and is currently a professor of law at the University of Auckland and Chair of the

New Zealand Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy & Practice Advisory Board. He is recognised internationally for his expertise in patients’ rights,regulation of health practitioners and healthcare quality improvement and has chaired several major health system reviews in Australia. 

Dr Barbara Disley is a former director of the Mental Health Foundation (1991-1996), and a former executive chairwoman of the Mental Health Commission (1996-2002). She is currently chief executive of Emerge Aotearoa which provides a wide range of community-based mental health, addiction, disability support and social housing services nationwide.

Sir Mason Durie is a psychiatrist and professor of Māori Studies at Massey University. An expert in Māori health and culture, he has served on a range of health-related committees, councils and advisory groups, including the Mental Health Foundation (1976-1980), The National Health Committee (1998-2000) and was a Families Commissioner (2003-2007).

Dean Rangihuna is a Māori consumer adviser for the Canterbury DHB with a particular focus on mental health services. He has consumer/lived experience and knowledge of Māori mental health models.

Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath has research expertise and experience in Pacific mental health and suicide prevention. She is currently acting co-head of the School of Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland and is a senior lecturer for Pacific Health at the School of Population Health.

Josiah Tualamali’I is chair of the Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation Charitable Trust. In 2016, he received the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award for Leadership and Inspiration and he is a semi-finalist for Kiwibank Young New Zealander of the Year (2018).



If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.


  1. Need to talk?Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.
  2. Lifeline– 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland.
  3. Youthline– 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email or online chat.
  4. Samaritans– 0800 726 666.


  1. An initial reflection on the state of NZ’s mental health system from a student who completed his undergraduate internship in a US-based mental health setting. This was a comprehensive, established program where student interns were included as part of a Recreation Therapy team who were part of an overall multi-disciplinary team. Completing this internship allowed me to proceed to complete a professional exam for the Recreation Therapy profession, but the title is not recognized (yet) to a large degree within Aotearoa New Zealand. The initial comment I want to make is about this notion of ‘capacity building’, which applies to organizations, and to the individuals within them.

    My experience during this 4 months (9 years ago) tells me that a central issue in the current state of NZ’s mental health system is one of resourcing: for individual practitioners training in a discipline where there is documented evidence of benefit for the people served, ‘capacity building’ implies that time is a resource vital to professional development (akin to Henri Fayol’s concept of ‘Stability of Tenure’). In short, the existing mental health system is relying on overstretched resources without investing in additional allied health input (our teaching programs closed down nearly a decade ago) and my personal reflection is that government provision needs to be made for allowing budding professionals time to develop as effective practitioners, by supporting the teaching programs in the respective disciplines.

    My (anecdotal) impression is that this profession has something to offer, although contemporary economic and social structures place a barrier to it becoming established in this country. If the mental health system is to be improved, this country needs to look to other countries where innovative strategies (such as the one in which I trained) are being used. The terms ‘comprehensive’ and ‘established’ used in relation to the internship spoken of (NB: this was the US under the Obama administration – somewhat different to today) are ways I describe the program, and contributed to professional development.

    In summary, health professionals are expected to make the transition to professional practice immediately after graduating, but I wonder if there needs to be greater respect for time as a resource during training to ensure enough graduates with the substantial capacity to meet current and future mental health system needs. These are some initial reflections, and I’m willing to expand on these comments if necessary.

    Best wishes.


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