Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission

The Government has committed to establishing an independent Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission as part of its response to He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction (He Ara Oranga).

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission will perform an enduring role in transforming New Zealand’s approach to mental health and wellbeing. It will provide system-level oversight of mental health and wellbeing in New Zealand and hold the government of the day and other decision makers to account for the mental health and wellbeing of people in New Zealand.

On 14 November 2019, the Government introduced the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission Bill to Parliament and referred the Bill to the Health Committee. The Bill proposes to establish the Commission as an independent Crown entity to contribute to better and equitable mental health and wellbeing for people in New Zealand.

The Health Committee has now completed its consideration of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission Bill.

The Health Committee received 99 submissions and heard 42 oral submissions from a range of individuals and organisations through December 2019 and February 2020. Almost all submitters that commented on the Bill supported establishing the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

The Health Committee recommended unanimously that the Bill be passed with several proposed amendments. These include:

  • increasing the board size from 2-5 members to 3-7 members
  • adding a new function to make explicit that the Commission can make recommendations to improve approaches to mental health and wellbeing (the Commission’s recommendations can be made to any person, including Ministers)
  • making explicit that when performing its functions, the Commission should have regard to available evidence, the wider determinants of mental health and wellbeing, and actions undertaken (or that could be undertaken) to improve mental health and wellbeing
  • reframing the clause that outlines the groups of people whose views the Commission should seek so that it is more inclusive of all groups that are at risk of experiencing poor mental health and wellbeing. The revised Bill acknowledges the 12 groups identified in He Ara Oranga as examples of such groups. This list includes the groups that were listed in the Bill when it was introduced (Māori, Pacific peoples, disabled people and children and young people) and also includes rainbow communities, rural communities, older people, refugees and migrants, among others.

The Health Committee presented its report to the House on 24 March 2020. For information about the Bill including the Health Committee’s report, the revised version of the Bill, submissions on the Bill, and advice provided to the Committee by the Ministry of Health, please see the New Zealand Parliament website.

The second reading debate will take place once Parliament resumes.

The main decision documents relating to establishing the Commission are available at Cabinet material: Establishing a New Independent Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission

While legislation is being progressed, an Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission (the Initial Commission) will undertake some, but not all, of the functions of the permanent Commission. The Initial Commission has been established under section 11 of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000.

The draft terms of reference for the Initial Commission are available:

The Initial Commission is expected to be in place until February 2021 (depending on the progress of legislation establishing the permanent Commission).

Membership of the Initial Commission

The Government announced appointments to the Initial Commission on 12 September 2019.

Chair – Hayden Wano has over 30 years’ experience in senior management and over 40 years’ health sector experience including, mental health, community services and medical services. He is the Chief Executive of Tui Ora Limited, a Taranaki-based Māori development organisation and provider of social and health services.

His governance experience includes, Interim Chair of the National Health Board, Chair of Taranaki District Health Board and Chair of the Health Sponsorship Council. He is a Director of the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce, and recently retired from the role of Chair of TSB Community Trust.

Member – Kendall Flutey is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Banqer, an education programme that teaches children concepts around income, interest on savings, tax, property investment and insurance. In 2018 Ms Flutely won the title of Young Māori Business Leader of the Year and earlier this year won Te Whetū Maiangi Award for Young Achievers

Member – Kevin Hague is a former Green Party MP and the current Chief Executive of Forest & Bird. He was previously the Executive Director of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and Chief Executive of the West Coast District Health Board.

Member – Kelly Pope is a mental health advocate, youth worker and writer. She is the Founder of Crazy Young Things (CYT) Consulting which provides consumer advice relating to mental health and youth peer support. She is also a Child Support Worker at Stepping Stone Trust and a Research Assistant at the University of Canterbury.

Member – Dr Julie Wharewera-Mika is a clinical psychologist and lead co-researcher at Manu Ārahi ~ The Flying Doctors. She has more than 20 years’ mental health experience having occupied various roles within the sector, primarily as a clinical psychologist, in inpatient services, adult, child and adolescent community mental health District Health Board services. Dr Wharewera-Mika’s broader areas of research interest are focused on improving Māori mental health and wellbeing, mental health service delivery, support services for survivors of sexual violence and Māori mental health workforce development.

For general enquiries about the Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, please contact kiaora@mhwc.govt.nz

For media enquiries, please contact media@mhwc.govt.nz

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