The President comments: ‘Here Comes The Sun’

HERE COMES The Sun – the classic Beatles track off the 1969 Abbey Road album – was one of the first songs that our son, aged two and a half, learned to sing. Memories of walking to feed the ducks in the summer of 2007/8, accompanied by strains of, “Sun, sun, sun, here it comes!” still warm my heart.

This George Harrison composition could have been a glib, throwaway ditty. I think its longevity and power stem partly from its invocation of a “long, cold, lonely winter” which has lasted for what “feels like years”.

Shortly after its release at the end of the 1960s – that decade of struggle – brilliant cover versions appeared, by feminist civil-rights singer Nina Simone and rebel reggae artist Peter Tosh.

Ice is melting

They enriched the meaning of lines like, “I feel that ice is slowly melting”. Patterns of injustice long frozen were starting to shift.

And so, as summer 2018/19 arrives in Aotearoa, there are signs the long, cold winter – for nursing and for the people we care for – is also coming to an end. The ice has been cracked by passion, courage and the collective action of NZNO members.

Nine years of underfunding ended in May with this year’s Budget. It was our campaigning, together with others, which made health the number one issue for voters and a top priority for the incoming government.

Our escalating protests and strikes this year were unprecedented. Our demand to bring back the warmth into health has been game-changing.

We didn’t win everything we need to rebuild our health system, but I can see rays of sunlight. Over the last couple of months, I’ve helped assess and approve each DHB’s plans for their share of the 500 new nursing positions created by our campaign. And I’ve felt the warmth returning to our profession.

Meanwhile, the health minister will be looking at options for providing employment and training for all nursing and midwifery graduates – delivered under the new Safe Staffing Accord.

I see new buildings, new services, new initiatives for our peoples, and I have hope.

It will take more struggle to clear away all the dark clouds over our public health system – and the deeper chill still lying across the rest of the sector. But as our courage and passion spreads, so, too, do the cracks in the ice.

In November, the first-ever collective action by NZNO members at Ngāti Porou Hauora confronted historic injustices facing Māori and iwi health providers. Trying to survive on meagre government funding, these providers pay nurses around 25 per cent less than those working for DHBs; some are also having to cut services to survive. 

And December saw members at Family Planning vote to strike for the first time.

But before we take up the struggle again, it’s time to celebrate. Summer is here. Let’s make it a good one.

Whether you’re working through, or have leave approved, I hope you are all able to enjoy some time in the sun with your loved ones. I will be.

Our son is older now, and has a younger sister. From our whānau to yours, I wish you a happy festive season. •

(First published in the December/January issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Reposted with permission).

Where are the Pacific nursing voices?

Former Cook Islands health secretary Elizabeth Iro (centre) received a ceremonial welcome home at the start of the 19th South Pacific Nurses Forum, where the NZNO delegation included (left to right) president Grant Brookes, Pacific Nurses Section chair ‘Eseta Finau, kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and kaumātua Keelan Ransfield. 

The relationship that world health and nursing bodies have with the Pacific came under the spotlight at the South Pacific Nurses Forum.

By NZNO president Grant Brookes

Former Cook Islands health secretary Elizabeth Iro received a ceremonial welcome home at the start of the 19th South Pacific Nurses Forum (SPNF), held in the Cook Islands capital, Avarua, in October.

Her 2017 appointment to the re-established role of chief nursing officer at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, followed this year by the selection of Isabelle Skinner, of Australia, to head the International Council of Nurses (ICN), has brought the global institutions into closer contact with Pacific nursing.

The WHO, ICN and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) were all represented at the forum. Debates over their relationship with the Pacific arose from the outset.

These debates took centre stage during the half-day biennial general meeting (BGM) of SPNF member organisations, where NZNO was represented by kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, Pacific Nurses Section chair ‘Eseta Finau and myself. They were also heard in the joint meeting with South Pacific chief nursing and midwifery officers which ended the 19th SPNF.

Nursing Now concerns

Concerns were already growing ahead of the forum over a proposed Pacific launch of the global Nursing Now campaign.Nursing Now is a three-year campaign to raise the status and profile of nursing. Although run in collaboration with ICN and WHO, it is a programme of the Burdett Trust for Nursing in the United Kingdom (UK), based on a report by members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons in London.

Some SPNF delegates felt there had been insufficient information and consultation with member organisations to allow them to endorse Nursing Now.

Others asked where the voices of the indigenous nurses of the Pacific were reflected in the campaign. For these reasons, NZNO decided to abstain from the launch.

The SPNF BGM later resolved to approach the board of Nursing Now to recommend that two indigenous representatives be appointed to the board.

Questions were also raised of the WHO, about why the nursing advisor role in their western Pacific regional office in Suva had been vacant since 2013. The joint meeting with chief nursing and midwifery officers agreed to write to the WHO South Pacific representative, seeking the re-establishment of this position.

The 19th SPNF concluded by expressing a willingness to restart joint work agreed at the previous forum in 2016, on opportunities to align regional regulatory frameworks for nurses and midwives across Pacific nations and on post-graduate education requirements in line with health workforce needs. •

(First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Reposted with permission). 

Related coverage

‘Helping across borders’


Helping across borders

Last month’s South Pacific Nurses Forum in the Cook Islands stressed the importance of cross-border health learning.

By NZNO president Grant Brookes

2 (crop)
NZNO representatives spend time with World Health Organization chief nursing officer Elizabeth Iro (centre). From left, NZNO president Grant Brookes, Pacific Nursing Section chair ‘Eseta Finau, kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and kaumātua Keelan Ransfield. Photo/Abel Smith

“Our country borders should not be used as an excuse not to help each other.” With these words, Cook Islands Health Minister Vainetutai Rose Toki-Brown opened the 19th South Pacific Nurses Forum (SPNF), held in the capital, Avarua, last month.

The conference attracted about 300 participants, including official delegations from the 13 forum countries.

NZNO/Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa was represented by kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, chief executive Memo Musa, Pacific nursing section chair ‘Eseta Finau and president Grant Brookes, supported by kaumātua Keelan Ransfield.

Many others from New Zealand also participated – from academics to clinicians to leaders of nursing organisations. There were 45 presentations over four days on the theme, Transforming leadership – Nurses as change agents for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Pacific. A strong focus was on the need for nurses to help each other across borders.

The South Pacific comprises nine of 10 countries in the world with the highest obesity rates, threatening a “tsunami” of NCDs across our region. The impacts of climate change were likewise highlighted as requiring regional collaboration.

We were reminded that the causes of these looming health crises also lie outside the borders of Pacific nations.

New Zealand’s and Australia’s multi-faceted role in the Pacific was showcased in a number of presentations. Since 2015, a mobile eye clinic, provided by the Fred Hollows Foundation, has delivered services to more than 23,000 people in Fiji, from nurse-led screening clinics to free spectacles, to cataract surgery and diabetic retinopathy laser treatment.

In the Kingdom of Tonga, support from Waitematā District Health Board (DHB) has enabled nurse leaders to develop and implement a culturally appropriate clinical governance framework.

Co-presenting with Janine Mohamed of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives, Nuku highlighted the role of Te Rūnanga o Aotearoa in creating an emerging alliance of indigenous nurses in the Pacific and beyond.

Maternal and child health

One day of the forum focused on midwifery and maternal and infant health. Vice-president of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Mary Kirk spoke of ICM’s “twinning programme”, which pairs midwifery associations in high-income countries with those in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). “The benefits don’t flow only one way,” she said. “Both learn from each other.”

Presenters from LMIC island nations reported measures to tackle NCDs and other population health needs, measures that, in some cases, are more advanced than those in New Zealand.

A majority of Pacific countries have already introduced a tax on sugary drinks, while Tokelau has banned sugar-sweetened beverages altogether.

Strong nurse-led primary health care (PHC) and public health services in many Pacific countries have resulted in some higher health coverage indicators, eg vaccination rates, compared with New Zealand.

Presentations on nurse-led NCD clinics in the northern group of the Cook Islands (where there are no airfields and ships may visit once every four months), and in Tonga’s Vava’u group set the gold standard for universal health coverage and “leaving no-one behind”, no matter how remote.

A role delineation project in the Solomon Islands has mapped the country’s PHC services, nursing workforce distribution and workloads, utilisation rates down to clinic level, and current and projected population health needs. A national plan to improve health coverage and health equity, while at the same time balancing workloads and matching the nursing workforce to demand, has developed. New Zealand might benefit from developing such planning capacity.

The very idea of a border between New Zealand and the Pacific seemed to disappear altogether in some presentations. Manukau Institute of Technology senior academic lecturer Metua Daniel-Atutolu presented on a recent student placement in the Cook Islands. This aimed to strengthen students’ clinical and cultural competence to practise among Pacific communities in New Zealand.

Auckland parish community nurse (PCN) Loli Channing described how her role fits with the “healthy village action zone” model of care. This model was developed to align with the values of Pacific peoples in New Zealand. She encouraged conference participants to explore the role of the PCN in their own Pacific nations.

Auckland District Health Board clinical nurse specialist in HIV Sonya Apa Temata presented an approach to health and well-being based on Cook Islands indigenous epistemologies, developed in Aotearoa.

The four days of the forum demonstrated the truth of a quote from the ICM vice-president’s talk, which we would do well to remember: “If I go alone, I may go faster. But if we go together, we will go further.” •

(First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, November 2018. Reposted with permission. Additional coverage held over to the December issue).

Related coverage:

‘Where are the Pacific nursing voices?’

The President comments: ‘NZNO’s bold new experiment in democracy’

NZNO HAS embarked on a bold new experiment in democracy. That, for me, was the big news to come out of our annual general meeting (AGM) and conference, held in Wellington last month.

The two-day event, which was preceded by colleges and sections day and the National Student Unit AGM, attracted around 230 members, staff and guests (see coverage, p11-19).

Around 230 people attended the NZNO AGM and conference last month

We celebrated the outstanding achievement and service of members at our NZNO awards dinner. And presentations by an amazing group of cross-sector leaders on the second day helped us all raise our sights and embrace the conference theme, Health is a human right – optimising nursing to make it happen.

But it was on day one that the major decisions were made. As I noted in my opening address, we had come together on Suffrage Day, and at the end of a turbulent year for our union and our profession.

Overshadowing all else in the last 12 months has been the bargaining in the district health board sector. The effects of nine years of underfunding, which we highlighted and campaigned against in 2017, finally compelled us to take unprecedented industrial action.

The MECA bargaining sparked a campaign of extraordinary drive and determination, on the part of NZNO members and staff alike. Together, we achieved momentous things.

But there were also problems. As we faced difficult decisions, differences emerged between members, and between members and their representatives. Some felt the voice of members was not being heard.

Unity out of division

These differences were seen again in the debates on the conference floor. But the democracy that the Suffragists fought for, back in 1893, has the power to forge unity out of division. A democratic vote can resolve many individual differences into one collective union decision.

So the decision by AGM delegates to deepen and strengthen democracy within NZNO could be the most important thing to happen to our organisation in a long time.

Up until now, voting on proposed changes to NZNO policies and our constitution has been done at the AGM. Only those who attended got to vote.

From next year, however, all members will be able to vote online on these matters, with the results announced at AGM. Agreement to move to the “one member, one vote” system means the voice of members will be heard more clearly.

Jennie Rae, a mental health nurse from Taranaki, introduces the proposal to move to the “one member, one vote” system.

For me, as your president, the 2018 AGM and conference marked the start of my second term in office. I pledged to delegates that over the next three years I will work for NZNO’s renewal, in partnership with the kaiwhakahaere and in conjunction with the board and chief executive.

In every organisation, there are always a few who want to keep things as they are. But I never underestimate our collective power as NZNO members to deliver renewal.

AGM delegates have placed their trust in their fellow members. Now the obligation is on us to live up to this trust, to participate wisely in the new democratic process to make sure NZNO is the open and responsive organisation we need. •

First published in the October 2018 issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Reposted with permission.

‘Unity, democracy & NZNO renewal’ – Presidential address to NZNO AGM 2018

IMG_1717 (crop)

Ko Rangi, ko Papa

Ka puta ko Rongo

Ko Tāne Māhuta, ko Tangaroa.

Ko Tūmatauenga, ko Haumietiketike, ko Tāwhirimātea.

Tokona te Rangi ki runga, te Papa ki raro

Ka puta te ira tangata, ki te whaiao, ki te āo mārama.

E Rongo whakairia ake ki runga

Kia tina! 

Hui e! Tāiki e! 

Ko te kupu tuatahi ka tuku ki te Kaihanga. Ko te tika ka mihi anō ki te iwi kāinga me o rātou wāhi tapu. 

E ngā mate, haere, haere, haere. Rātou te hunga mate ki a rātou. Tātou te hunga ora e huihui mai nei, tēnā tātou. 

Ko te wā mō te hui taumata o te Tōpūtanga Taphui Kaitiaki o Aotearoa, ā, ka maumahara ahau ki te whakataukī: He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri. 

Nō reira, e rau rangatira mā, e nga manuhiri tūārangi, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa. 


In English: From Rangi and Papa, came Rongo, Tāne Māhuta, Tangaroa, Tūmatauenga, Haumietiketike, and Tāwhirimātea. When Rangi was separated to stay above and Papa below, the human element emerged into the world of light and understanding. So suspend it in the heavens above, Rongo, so it remains fixed there permanently, securely!

With this karakia recounting the beginning of all things, I began our meeting. 

I greeted the tangata whenua, and their sacred places. Greetings to those who have passed on, since we last gathered here together. 

We have mourned the passing of great leaders from our NZNO whānau, this past year. 

Shortly after our 2017 AGM, I joined a group from NZNO at the tangi for NZNO kuia Vera Morgan. ‘Aunty Vera’, as she was affectionately known, began her involvement with our organisation 18 years ago. She was invited into the NZNO whānau by the then Te Rūnanga Chair, Sharon Morunga. During her time with NZNO she worked alongside Rev Leo Te Kira as they jointly developed the NZNO Philosophy – “Me haeretahi tātou mō te hauora me te oranga o ngā iwi katoa o Aotearoa: let us journey together for the health and wellbeing of the people of Aotearoa”.

Two months later, in December, Elsie Boyd passed away aged 95. Elsie had trained at Nelson Hospital, registering in 1945. After years of theatre nursing in Auckland and teaching at the then Post-Graduate School for Nurses in Wellington, she joined the Department of Health where she served successive governments up until her retirement in 1980. 

And in the new year, two other leaders departed from us. 

Brent South, who died in Timaru in February, was instrumental in setting up the NZNO District Nurses Section, and served as its Chair from 1996-2001. His colleagues acknowledged his contribution with the creation of the Brent South Award. The Section later became part of the NZ College of Primary Health Care Nurses. To you I offer my condolences, for the passing of one of your founders. 

And in March, Maureen Laws passed away in Wellington. Maureen completed her nurse training in Christchurch in 1960. Over decades, she made an enormous contribution to NZNO and to our forerunner, the New Zealand Nurses Association. That contribution was recognised by her NZNO Award of Honour in 1991. Maureen continued to serve the profession, as a trustee of the Nursing Education and Research Foundation, up until 2014. 

Those who have gone before, are with us. 

President's address (to be amalgamated with final slides) 1.jpg

So I greet those gathered here, among the living. And as I do, I recall the whakataukī: “He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri”. “There is strength in unity, defeat in anger and division”. 

To the leaders too many to name, and to guests from afar – greetings, greetings, greetings one and all. 


We come together today on Suffrage Day, and at the end of a turbulent year for our union and our profession. As we start our AGM, I’d like to briefly reflect on these topics. 

President's address (to be amalgamated with final slides) 2.jpg

Overshadowing all else in the last year has been, of course, the bargaining in the DHB Sector. The effects of nine years of underfunding, which we highlighted and rallied against here last year, finally compelled us to take unprecedented industrial action. 

The MECA bargaining sparked a campaign of extraordinary drive and determination, on the part of NZNO members and staff alike. Together, we achieved momentous things. 

But there were problems. As we faced difficult decisions, differences emerged between members, and between members and their representatives. At times there were signs of the “anger and division” our whakataukī warns about. 

What has enabled us to start overcoming the differences – and I stress, we’ve only just begun that process – is the precious treasure we celebrate this Suffrage Day. 

125 years ago today, the Electoral Act of 1893 was signed into law. No longer would some have to depend on others – husbands, fathers, brothers, or sons – to hopefully vote in their best interests. At last, everyone had gained the right to cast their own vote. 

It’s this democracy we celebrate today that has the power to forge unity, out of division. A democratic vote can resolve many individual differences into one collective union decision. As we continue the democratic process of overcoming differences, strength will grow; “he ora te whakapiri”. 

But healthy democracy is more than simply majority rule. 

We got through the most turbulent times this year because we’re not just trade unionists. As nurses and midwives, we are also professionals. Our collective efforts were not only for ourselves. We were fighting for a better health system, for all. 

President's address (to be amalgamated with final slides) 3

As professionals we proudly uphold principles, like those in the Code of Conduct for Nurses. The Code tells us to “work respectfully with colleagues to best meet health consumers’ needs”. To maintain its standards, we “treat colleagues with respect, working with them in a professional, collaborative and co-operative manner”. We “recognise that others have a right to hold different opinions.” 

Our professionalism therefore reminds us to work respectfully with colleagues, who may be in the minority. It reminds a majority that others have a right to hold different opinions – and to remain collaborative towards them. 

Soon we’ll begin the business of voting on the previous minutes, reports and remits. The AGM also reviews and ratifies the Board’s strategic policy decisions. This happens because AGM delegates in years past added these democratic checks and balances into our Constitution.

So this annual meeting is where, in between the elections for the Board and Officers, members exercise democratic control in this member-run organisation. It’s where we, up here, are accountable to you, our fellow members. 

Finally for me, as your President, today marks the completion of my first three-year term in office and the start of my second. 

Back in 2015, in my first address to an NZNO AGM, I pledged: 

• To “be accessible to members”, online and in your locality 

• To ”make your issues visible… [in] the media”, including on social media 

• To “strengthen NZNO’s bicultural partnership” 

• To support more members “to actively participate in NZNO” 

I can look back with satisfaction at progress that’s been made. But there is also some unfinished business. 

Our issues have become visible, as never before – especially on social media. I hope I played a part. Participation rates in some NZNO activities, like MECA votes, have reached record levels, thanks to online voting. 

Yet barriers still remain to participation by members in some of our NZNO structures and democratic processes. And more work will be required to strengthen our bicultural partnerships. 

Despite this, it is time to turn attention to fulfilling my new commitments to you. 

The events of the last year have revealed a need for change. In seeking a second term as President, therefore, I announced back in March in my candidate statement that I was seeking a mandate to lead NZNO’s renewal, in partnership with the Kaiwhakahaere and in conjunction with the Board and Chief Executive. 

An opportunity for renewal has been provided. The Board has agreed in principle that a review of NZNO’s operational structure will accompany the drafting of our new Strategic Plan. 

My pledge back in March said that “NZNO will be open and responsive to… members”. Having secured a fresh mandate and a second term, it’s that pledge I make again to you now. 

Nō reira e te whānau, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

’Your Place in the NZNO World’ – Speech to NZNO Colleges & Sections Day 2018

Grant - Colleges & Sections DayKia ora, koutou. Thank you for inviting Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and I to present at your Colleges and Sections Day. With only ten minutes allocated for both of us, please forgive me if I skip the introductions and get straight down to the topic at hand: “Colleges and Sections – Your Place in the NZNO World”. 

As I was preparing for this talk, I thought I’d better check what it says about the topic in your own documentation. In the Colleges and Sections Handbook, I found this statement: “Colleges and sections are part of NZNO: they do not have a separate legal status.”

So it seemed to me that the topic is essentially about the relationship of this part – your part – to NZNO as a whole. And much like the relationship of an organ to a biological system, we can describe the relationship of part to whole in terms of structure, or function. 

In other words, your place in the NZNO world can be described in terms of the “anatomy” of NZNO, or in terms of our “physiology”. 

In terms of physiology or function, the purpose of NZNO activity is to pursue the goals in our Strategic Plan 2015-20.

Draft NZNO Strategic Plan 2015-20 Part A for AGM

These are:

• Improved health outcomes – by promoting excellence in patient care 

• Skilled nurses – by contributing to, and advocating for the development of nursing education programmes and the ongoing professional development of members 

• Strong workforce – by strengthening nursing workforce planning, sustainability and leadership 

• Effective organisation – by ensuring NZNO is a healthy and sustainable organisation 

You will all be very familiar with the Strategic Plan above. This year, as Acting Manager of Nursing and Professional Services Hilary Graham-Smith has just mentioned, the Strategic Plan 2015-20 has been supplemented by the NZNO Strategy for Nursing 2018-2023, which you will discuss in more detail after lunch.

Your role in this functioning of NZNO is vital. The Colleges and Sections Handbook says, “Colleges/sections are integral in realising the goals of the NZNO Strategic Plan 2015-20 and its professional vision for nurses.”

You do this by performing functions such as: 

• Hosting educational conferences and publishing journals or newsletters. These contribute to the ongoing professional development of members and achievement of skilled nurses. 

• Making formal submissions or providing input into NZNO’s national submissions, sometimes through responding to NZNO Consultation Requests. These can promote the excellence in patient care needed to achieve improved health outcomes. 

• Representing NZNO on external committees or in the media (including specialty media such as Kai Tiaki, Nursing Review, NZ Doctor etc.). 

• Building strategic relationships, scanning the environment and communicating emerging strategic issues to NZNO leadership. This helps achieve NZNO’s goal of being an effective organisation. 

Your capacity to perform all these functions, as volunteers, has been the focus of the Board’s Volunteer Sustainability Project.

Switching now to the “anatomical” view, your place in the structure of NZNO is shown in the Structural Diagram: “Our Waka, Our Way”. 

I will race through this presentation, which was given at last year’s AGM and at this year’s Regional Conventions, highlighting just a few points. The full powerpoint will be on the Membership Committee page of the NZNO website. 

In the side view, the hull or riu of the waka is the membership. 


In the top view, the staff are seated towards the stern and the various membership groups sit towards the bow. Your place is marked number six. Those sitting nearest to you indicate your direct relationships: these are Te Rūnanga (number seven), Regional Councils (number eight), and the Membership Committee (at number nine). 


“The college and section link with the Board of Directors is through their representation on the membership committee”, says the Colleges and Sections Handbook. 

Your next speaker is Victoria Santos, the current Colleges and Sections rep on the Membership Committee. 

And then at the front of the waka are the National Hui and the AGM (at number 17), which takes place tomorrow. 

Because Colleges and Sections do not have a separate legal status, you must comply with NZNO rules and policies. These are set and amended through remits to the NZNO AGM. 

Colleges and Sections can have input into these rules and policies, and often do. A recent example is the 2017 remit from NZNO Nurse Managers New Zealand: “That the NZNO membership has the option to belong to up to three colleges or sections”, up from two. This remit was passed, and as at 31 March 2018 there were 109 members who had joined three Colleges or Sections. 

It followed an earlier attempt in 2016, by the Cancer Nurses College, to allow members to join as many colleges or sections as they needed, to allow them to be professionally supported in their chosen fields or interests. This earlier attempt was unsuccessful, as the voting system is not based on “one member, one vote”, and multiple College or Section memberships would increasingly distort representation at AGM. 

A number of other remits from Colleges and Sections have been unsuccessful in recent years, including another one from the Cancer Nurses College in 2016, that “Clinical Supervision be provided for nurses as per NZNO guidelines and that this should be included in the MECA”. DHB MECA negotiations are now complete, and an entitlement to clinical supervision has not been included. 

I understand that further discussion of these topics is planned today. As time is short, I won’t take questions now, but I will be available throughout the day to assist. 

Statement on my remuneration as NZNO President


Statement on my remuneration as NZNO President

In standing for election in 2015, as many NZNO members know, I pledged publicly that, “As your next President, I will accept only my current Staff Nurse pay rate”.

As I approach the end of my first three-year term in office, I make this brief statement on my remuneration to verify that the pledge has been fulfilled.

The mechanism for delivering on my campaign commitment was reported in the September 2015 issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand:

“[Brookes] says he will be standing by his pledge to only accept a staff nurse pay rate by donating the difference back to NZNO. 

‘My preference, so I don’t give any suggestion the role is worth less than the previous president has received, would be to accept the full salary and donate back the difference between my current staff nurse pay rate and the presidential pay rate’.

And since 2015, with the support of my family who were directly affected, this is what I have done.

Keeping my take-home pay the same as it was before I became President, and adjusting it only in line with changes in the DHB MECA, meant that I started on a net (after tax) annual salary of $60,246.94. This went to $61,451.88 on 4 July 2016, when base rates in the MECA rose by two percent. There it remained, up until the ratification of the new MECA last month.

Over the course of the last three years, I have reported in regular letters to the NZNO Board of Directors, through its Governance Committee, on the amounts donated back to NZNO. I now publish these letters, in the interests of full transparency.

Although it wasn’t part of my pledge, I also wanted to save money on work-related expenses. This was achieved by doing things like staying with local NZNO members while away on work trips, rather than in hotels, and by choosing the cheapest fares.

For the two full financial years I’ve been in the role so far (1 April 2016 to 31 March 2018), spending on travel and accommodation averaged just 53% of the money budgeted per annum in the NZNO President cost centre.

For their part, the Board wanted to make it clear that they did not endorse my decision to accept only Staff Nurse pay and to donate the rest back to NZNO – a position they expressed, for example, at the Board meeting held on 18 October 2017 (see page 5 of the minutes, available at this link).

My last letter to the Board and Governance Committee, dated 10 September 2018, notes that when I stood for re-election this year, my candidate profile statement did not repeat the 2015 pledge to accept only the pay of a Staff Nurse. This decision was made after consultation with my family.

Therefore, while I will continue to decline the full salary during my second term as NZNO President starting on 19 September 2018, this statement constitutes my final public comment on my remuneration for the role.

Grant Brookes, NZNO President

The President comments: ‘Powered by unity and determination’

JULY 12, 2018, is a day that will go down in New Zealand nursing history.

For just the second time, nurses in our public health system took nationwide industrial action, alongside midwives and health-care assistants (HCAs) covered by the district health board (DHB) multi-employer collective agreement (MECA). 

For me, the hours I spent picketing and marching with my fellow NZNO members that day are the proudest moments of my nursing career. 

NZNO members stood together. “Yes” voters, “no” voters and non-voters stood side by side, outside on the picket line, or inside, providing life-preserving services. 

Auckland march - Newshub frame 1 (crop)
‘An historic day: Time spent picketing and marching with my fellow NZNO members on July 12 are the proudest moments of my nursing career.’

And now, three weeks later, DHB members are being asked to vote once again. They’re deciding whether to accept DHB offer number five – the third to be recommended by the NZNO negotiating team. As I write, the outcome of the vote is unknown. But what is clear is just how far we’ve come. 

Back in November 2017, most members were being offered three pay increases of two per cent, over 33 months, and a lump sum of $350 (pro rata). 

The DHBs had agreed in principle to support a pay-equity process, but there was no definite date for completion. They said, once again, they would implement care capacity demand management (CCDM) – this time, by June 30, 2021. 

In February, after rejecting the first offer, we were told DHBs could not provide wage increases above two per cent, unless they were to resolve an anomaly like the identified senior nurse issue, or were achieved through a pay equity process. 

But in this second offer, the lump sum was increased to $1050 and a deadline of July 1, 2019, was set for a pay-equity settlement. 

Prime Minister intervenes 

When that offer was also rejected, Jacinda Ardern was moved to speak up – the first time a New Zealand prime minister had intervened publicly in our bargaining – and proposed an independent panel. Our submission to the panel set benchmarks for appropriate pay ranges – $44,500 to $56,300 for an HCA, $57,500 to $61,500 for an enrolled nurse and $64,300 to $80,000 for a registered nurse or a midwife. 

We rallied because #HealthNeedsNursing, and we marched so New Zealand would #HearOurVoices. When the third offer came in June, it was almost twice as big. The lump sum was bumped up to $2000. Pay rises ranged from 9.3 per cent to 15.9 per cent over 26 months. 

Members were allowed to vote online for the first time, which led to the highest participation ever seen in a MECA ratification ballot. 

An extra $38 million was pledged by the Government to employ 500 more nurses, and $10 million allocated for additional expert nursing staff to support implementation of CCDM. Recruitment of the extra nurses has already begun. 

And now, at the end of July, after two further “reject” votes, Health Minister David Clark has put his signature to a new accord on safe staffing. The accord acknowledges that making sure there are enough nurses and midwives in our public hospitals to guarantee safety for staff and patients requires support from the Government. It strengthens commitments to deliver this by June 2021. 

The journey so far has not been easy. But every one of these advances has been powered by the unity and determination of thousands of NZNO members, who should be enormously proud of themselves. • 

Kai Tiaki cover, 7.18
First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, August 2018. Reposted with permission.

‘Striking for a better health system’ – Speech to Auckland NZNO rally

On 12 July 2018 nurses, midwives and health care assistants walked off the job at DHBs nationwide for the first time in almost thirty years. In Auckland, thousands NZNO members and supporters of the strike marched up Queen Street to rally in Aotea Square and listen to delegates from the city’s three DHBs – Gui Restall, Sela Ikavuka, Alys Moriarty and Joel Peeperkorn. The Chair of NZNO’s Greater Auckland Regional Council, Esther Linklater, CTU Māori Vice-President Syd Keepa and NZNO Lead Organiser Carol Beaumont also spoke. It was my honour and privilege to make this short announcement first. 



Kia ora. What a wonderful sight you all are! 

I have two brief messages to deliver. The first one is for you, the NZNO members gathered here. 

I want you to know that the whole of NZNO is behind you today. I would like to read a statement from the Board of Directors, the elected governing body of your organisation:

“We offer our solidarity and support to all our members who are on strike and picketing. We also acknowledge those who are on rosters for life preserving services taking care of the public at this time. And we thank all members for their support.”

The second message, before I hand over to our wonderful member speakers, is for the public and the government.

Today we are striking today for a better a health system for us all. This is a message from all of us to the government and the employers. And I think it’s one that they can share. I believe the government and the DHBs also want a better health system for us all. 

The government say they can’t make up for nine years of underfunding in a single Budget, and that it’s going to take time. And I think we understand, deep down, that there is some truth to that. 

But we also want the government to understand something in return. They need to move faster, and they need to start with a bigger step right now! 

The last thing is for any members of the public who are here, or watching on live streams. Today’s action, this is for you. So please show your support for our nurses today. 

Thank you. 

Walking together in solidarity and friendship

BEING IN Suva for three days attending the FNA symposium and AGM highlighted for me and kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku the strong ties between nurses in the two countries. The visit also enabled shared learning.

NZ team at FNA
“Team New Zealand”: Symposium participants from Aotearoa pictured with FNA President Dr Adi Alisi Vudiniabola (second from right).

Auckland-based Pacific nursing leader Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Enderman opened the symposium as the first keynote speaker. The closing speaker was Abel Smith, a former member of the FNA executive who now holds many nursing leadership roles in New Zealand. He is treasurer of NZNO’s Pacific nursing section.

In between, there were presentations from Auckland University researcher Ofa Dewes, from Waitematâ District Health Board’s health science academies programme coordinator Malcolm Andrews, and from two other New Zealand-based nurses, Simione Tagicakbau and Vunirewa Uluilakeba.

It was the first time that elected NZNO leaders had been invited to open the AGM. Participation as FNA’s chief guests was a great honour. The experience showed me the many similarities between our two countries, but also some differences.

Fiji – Grant & Kerri
NZNO co-leaders at the FNA AGM.

NZNO can only aspire to the kind of relationship with the Ministry of Health that exists between the FNA and the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services. The chief nursing and midwifery officer, Silina Waqa-Ledua, responded on behalf of the ministry to many questions and comments from delegates.

“There are many commonalities,” Nuku said. “Fijian nurses are also grappling with health underfunding, the growing burden of non-communicable diseases, poverty, climate change and the dangers of privatisation.

“But only more recently have they begun to seriously consider cultural safety, in the context of increasing numbers of internationally qualified nurses being employed in foreign-owned private hospitals,” she said.

Around 300 nurses attended the events, over the three days. My opening address to the AGM, ‘Walking together in solidarity and Pacific friendship’, is available online: 

Report by NZNO president Grant Brookes

Related coverage:

Pay push for Fiji nurses