New Health System Act passes third reading in Parliament

New Health System Act passes third reading in parliament
New Health System Act passes third reading in parliament Photo credit: Getty Images


Labour's Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill sets out the government's vision for a health system restructure, just weeks away from coming into force. It was first introduced in October last year.

Now it had passed three readings in parliament and been considered by a Select Committee, the bill would become law after receiving the royal assent from the governor-general - a ceremonial step.

Minister of Health Andrew Little said it was a new beginning and marked "a significant milestone" toward better health and well-being for all New Zealanders.

"This is a landmark reform for health in Aotearoa New Zealand, and is key to righting the wrongs of inequity and unacceptable health outcomes that have for too long been suffered by too many.

"Removing the postcode lottery to put patients and communities at the heart of our health system is what the reforms are about. We need a system that works for all New Zealanders, and that is what we are building."

The Act was to come into force on 1 July this year, and replace 20 District Health Boards with the crown agency Health New Zealand and establish a Māori Health Agency.

The two agencies would be required to work together to design and budget for a three-year health plan.

It would also establish a public health agency within the Ministry of Health, and "strengthen" the stewardship role of the Ministry of Health, Little said.

Associate Health Minister (Māori) Peeni Henare said the reform was a response to calls from Māori for the government to do better when it comes to health equity and a system "that takes care of them".

"For far too long the status quo has failed to deliver this. The Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill enshrines the Māori Health Authority as an equal partner at the heart of the new health system, empowering it to co-commission and plan services across the system in conjunction with HNZ, commission its own kaupapa Māori services, and monitor the performance of the health system for Māori.

"In addition to the MHA, Iwi Māori Partnership Boards will ensure that the voice of whānau is heard and helps shape health services delivered locally, so that they better reflect those who need and use them.

"I am proud that Māori voices and hauora expertise will be reflected at every level of our new health system," Henare said.

The shake-up reflected Labour's 2020 manifesto promise of reform to build a stronger health system, and Little said he believed it would lead to better health for New Zealanders.

"We have already backed the system with multi-year budgets and the funding needed to get on with the job.

"Now we're removing the structural challenges so resources can be used more effectively, IT systems can be better connected to streamline care, and patients can get treatment sooner to prevent small issues becoming bigger problems."