National MPs accept petition calling for national cancer agency

National MPs have accepted a petition calling for better cancer care for New Zealanders, stewarded by a national cancer agency.  

The petition by Southland farmer Blair Vining - diagnosed with stage four terminal bowel cancer in October last year - received more than 140,000 signatures. 

National leader Simon Bridges presented the petition on Vining's behalf in a blue suitcase full of signatures outside Parliament on Thursday. 

"What Blair and his family have done is a remarkable achievement," Bridges said. "Blair has bowel cancer and is unwell. To get 140,000 signatures, that's New Zealand's fifth-largest city.

"We're out here in solidarity with him because of his effort, because of his passion, and what he is trying to achieve."

Vining's 12-year-old daughter, Lilly, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in June pleading with her to set up a national cancer agency to help people like her father. 

Terminal cancer sufferer Blair Vining.
Terminal cancer sufferer Blair Vining. Photo credit: File

Before the 2017 election Labour promised to establish a national cancer agency to "streamline cancer care" in New Zealand. It also promised a national cancer plan. 

Bridges presented the petition alongside Southland-Clutha MP Hamish Walker and National's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse. 

"What we know is that Blair wants a national cancer agency, and that's something he feels strongly about," he said. 

The suitcase full of signatures for Blair Vining's petition.
The suitcase full of signatures for Blair Vining's petition. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"We understand that, and the reality of it is that was something the Government promised and they are not delivering on."

Bridges said the National Party wouldn't necessarily start a national cancer agency if it was in power, but "we are thinking those things through". 

He said the Government is "failing to deliver on its promises". 

Health Minister David Clark said he met with Vining and his wife Melissa earlier this month to listen to their story and thank them for their campaign to improve cancer care.

"During that meeting I acknowledged that at times Blair's treatment had fallen well short of the standard of care he deserved," Clark told Newshub.

He said the Government's Interim Cancer Action Plan is being designed to "make a positive difference in future" to people in Vining's situation.

"The plan's focus is on prevention and delivering consistent, equitable and modern cancer care nationwide. A key part of that will be strong central leadership, governance and accountability measures."

He said the plan is currently being finalised and will be publicly released in coming weeks.