Health funding protest at National Party conference

Bill English.
Bill English. Photo credit: Newshub/Lloyd Burr

The National Party is meeting in the capital this weekend after a difficult week.

It will be Bill English's conference first as leader, and it's believed he won't be announcing any new policies.

But the party might do just that to distract from the Todd Barclay scandal. The Clutha-Southland MP's decided to leave Parliament in September after revelations he secretly recorded his staff.

Mr English will deliver the keynote speech on Sunday.

Protesters will be there, calling for more health and staff funding. They'll be setting up life-sized cut-outs of missing workers on Saturday morning.

The 100 cut-outs will represent 30,000 health workers they say are missing from the public sector due to $2.3 billion of underfunding.

Protest organiser Simon Oosterman says recent Budget boosts have not been good enough.

"People who work in health, people who use health [services] and the public all agree that mental health services are in crisis. The only people who aren't agreeing are the Government and the ministers," he told Newshub.

"If the ministers won't listen, then we're going to go and talk to the party members."

Mr Oosterman says the group's biggest concern is around mental health funding.

"They're actually not offering enough money to match our aging and growing population. There are people who feel their mental health issues are not being listened to. That's incredibly dangerous."

The Government announced an extra $224 million for mental health services in the Budget this year. Mr Oosterman says other areas are also going without necessary funds.

"There are 170,000 New Zealanders who need surgery who can't get it, and the waiting lists are getting longer and longer. DHBs can't provide the same level of services they did before."

There are three months until the election.