Cheeky election billboards protest Govt's mental health record

Mental health billboards in Northcote.
Mental health billboards in Northcote. Photo credit: Action Station

Election signs protesting the Government's record on mental health have appeared in the Health Minister's electorate, some rather cheekily sharing a billboard with the minister's own posters.

The hoardings display a picture of Jonathan Coleman in front of a background of National Party blue. Dr Coleman smiles next to the words: "77 percent of Kiwis want a mental health inquiry (but not me)."

The signs are the work of online activist organisation ActionStation, which funded the People's Mental Health Report into the state of mental health services earlier this year. The report said the system is neglected and under strain and called for additional funding and an immediate and urgent inquiry.

The hoardings comply with the Electorate Act.
The hoardings comply with the Electorate Act. Photo credit: ActionStation

ActionStation spokesperson Marianne Elliot told Newshub polling at the time of the report showed strong public concern around mental health, and the idea with the hoardings is to make mental health services an election issue for all political parties - not just National.

Ms Elliot said the Government's response to the report has been nothing more than gestures. She said there was some recognition from the Prime Minister that the mental health system is under strain, but she's disappointed they did not agree to a nationwide inquiry.

"It may be that our Government doesn't want to talk about that prior to an election, but it's not going to go away until we are willing to look at what the underlying problems are and why our mental health system is so neglected and is under so much strain.

"Unfortunately we will continue to have people suffer and in the worst case scenario, some people will lose their lives."

Newshub asked Dr Coleman whether there was a plan to undertake a mental health inquiry, and if not, why not. He said the Government does not agree there is a need for an inquiry and hinted at annoucements of new initiatives being funded in the coming weeks.

"In line with international trends, here in New Zealand we’ve seen an increase in demand for mental health and addiction services in recent years," Dr Coleman said.

"The drivers of mental health and addition are complex, and there is no simple answer as to why across the world we are seeing increased demand." As a result, the Government spent $1.4 billion on mental healthin 2015/16 and allocated an additional $224 million for mental health over a four-year period in the Budget.

Labour and National were the first parties to fall victim to some clever Photoshopping this election campaign, with Bill English transformed into a Domino's pizza deliverer - inspired by the party's 'delivering for New Zealanders' slogan - and Labour's  'fresh approach' becoming a too-easy supermarket slogan.

Labour's 'a fresh approach', Photoshopped.
Labour's 'a fresh approach', Photoshopped.
Bill English serving up the special spaghetti on pizza menu.
Bill English serving up the special spaghetti on pizza menu. Photo credit: Nathaniel Watson/Supplied

A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission told Newshub ActionStation's hoardings comply with the Electoral Act. ActionStation is a registered third party promoter and the signs include the required promoter's statement.