DHBs may have to double a pay package they're expected to offer nurses on Monday if they're going to prevent a nationwide strike.
Nurses have voted to strike for two days in July, after rejecting the DHBs' previous offer of a 2 percent rise. An independent panel has recommended three pay rises of 3 percent each, plus a $2000 one-off lump sum, and the DHBs say their new offer "strongly reflects" that recommendation.
A nurse with five years' experience earns $66,755. That would go up to $72,944 by August next year under the panel's recommendations.
But registered nurse Danni Wilkinson says that won't be enough.
"We need to be looking at getting in line with Australia, because a lot of our nurses are going to Australia," she told The AM Show on Monday.
"Seventeen percent is the minimum difference between the lowest-paid nurse in New Zealand and the lowest-paid nurse in Australia."
If the DHBs offered nurses a 17 percent payrise, Ms Wilkinson says that would be "reasonable".
"I think a lot of nurses would be okay with that. But we need to keep on top of it over the coming years and not fall behind again."
She says inflation eats away at nurses' pay, and the last time they got a "decent" increase was 2004.
"We're well below even keeping up with inflation, let alone the changes in the demands of the job... Sicker people are being admitted into hospitals. We are keeping people at home longer and sending them home sooner, so the people that are in hospitals are a lot sicker than they were even 10 years ago."
And in places like Auckland, the cost of living has rocketed up faster than inflation. Ms Wilkinson says the idea of higher pay for nurses in Auckland was floated during the negotiations, but "never gained ground".
If the latest offer fails to satisfy nurses - and if Ms Wilkinson's stance is typical of the wider nursing profession, it won't - they will go on nationwide strike on July 5 and 12.