'We had counsellors, we just needed funds': Mike King gobsmacked after Ardern claims mental health staff shortage behind long wait times

Mike King is gobsmacked by the Prime Minister's claim New Zealand's counselling wait time crisis is caused by a lack of mental health workers, saying he had staff ready but the Government was unwilling to fund them.

In an interview with The Rock radio station on Wednesday, host Bryce Casey asked Jacinda Ardern if she could allocate more funding so Kiwis can get the counselling they need.

It comes as reports suggest wait times for mental health care have increased by almost two weeks since Labour came into power in 2017, with some children facing more than six-month wait times for appointments.

Ardern responded that while she had the same "sense of urgency" about New Zealand's mental health issues as Casey, increased funding was not the only remedy.

"If it were just a matter of money, then it would be an issue that anyone would have solved yesterday - but it's not," she explained.

"The last time I sat down with our team I said 'what can we do to deal with the wait times people are experiencing, what can we do to improve people's access to crisis care?' One of the problems we have is we don't have enough people working in mental health."

The Prime Minister went on to explain that some of the outcomes of the Government's $1.9 billion investment in mental health services in Budget 2019 - such as more trained staff - may take years to reap rewards.

But mental health advocate King said he was "gobsmacked" by Ardern's claim a lack of mental health workers was behind long counselling wait times.

In a Facebook post he said his charity Gumboot Friday had thousands of staff ready to go, and asked earlier this year for extra funds from the Government to pay them.

"Knowing you as a woman of integrity I can only assume that you have once again been lied to by your MOH officials so allow me to set the record straight," he wrote.

"On February 10th this year I informed Health Minister Andrew Little that [Gumboot Friday] had 3854 registered counsellors ready to go and we just needed extra funds to pay them. We also informed him that 100 percent of funds would go to counsellors and we would pick up the admin costs...

"I'm not saying that our counsellors are going to completely alleviate the waiting list crisis but it's 3854 times better than anything you have got right now."

King also took umbrage with Ardern's suggestion she was "still working Mike and his team".

He says that's not true and the only time officials mention his name "is to lie about late applications for funding that doesn't exist" - a reference to a Ministry of Health comment that led many to believe his charity Gumboot Friday had missed a funding application deadline.

Newshub has approached the Prime Minister's Office for comment.

King last week called on Ministry of Health deputy CEO Robyn Shearer to resign for "deliberately misleading the public" on Gumboot Friday's funding application.

Shearer admitted the ministry "could have been clearer" but denied saying a funding deadline had been missed.