Transforming our Mental Health Law – a public discussion document

Published online: 
22 October 2021

Repealing and replacing the Mental Health Act

Consultation is now open, closing 28 January 2022. Submit your views through the Ministry's consultation hub.

In transforming the mental health and addiction system, we want to make sure all New Zealanders get the support they need, where, when and how they need it

An important step in this transformation is creating fit-for-purpose legislation, and in 2019 the Government accepted the recommendation in He Ara Oranga (the report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction) to repeal and replace the Mental Health Act.

The Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act is legislation that sets out when, why and how the government can intervene in a person’s life to give them mental health treatment against their will.

The current Act became law in 1992. It has not kept pace with new approaches to care, and statistics show that Māori, Pacific peoples, and disabled people experience a range of inequities under the Act.

Many people in Aotearoa New Zealand access specialist mental health and addiction services every year, and most will never be placed under the Mental Health Act.

However, for those who do experience it, the Act has a big impact.

So now we need to get clear direction from New Zealanders about what mental health legislation should look like.

We want to hear your views on a range of topics, including:

  • The purpose of this legislation
  • How to embed Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  • Capacity and decision making, and
  • Seclusion, restraint, or other restrictive practices

We have an opportunity to create new mental health legislation that protects human rights, recognises Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and improves equity.

There are many things to consider, and we need your help in shaping the future of mental health legislation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

To find out more, visit the Mental Health and Addiction page on the Ministry of Health website.

I a mātou e whakahou ana i te pūnaha hauora hinengaro, waranga hoki e hiahia ana mātou kia whai tautoko ngā tāngata katoa o Aotearoa ahakoa ki hea, ahakoa āhea, ahakoa pēhea

Ko tētahi wāhanga matua o tēnei whakahoutanga ko te hanga i te ture arotau, ā, i te tau 2019 ka whakaae atu te Kāwanatanga ki te tūtohutanga mai i te pūrongo a He Ara Oranga (te pūrongo a te Uiui ki te Hauora Hinengaro me te Waranga) arā, kia whakakorengia, kia whakakapia hoki te Ture Hauora Hinengaro.

Ko te Ture Hauora Hinengaro (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) tētahi ture e whakamōhio atu ana me pēhea tā te Kāwanatanga haukoti i te koiora o te tangata hei tuku atu i te maimoatanga ki a ia ahakoa kāore e whakaaetia.

I whakaturea tēnei i te tau 1992 engari kāore e hāngai ana ki ngā aronga hauora kua puta mai i muri mai ā, e ai ki ngā tatauranga he kino rawa atu te wheako o ngā Māori, ngā iwi o Te Moananui-a-Kiwa me ngā tāngata whaikaha ki raro i tēnei ture.

Tokomaha ngā tāngata ki Aotearoa ka uru atu ki ngā ratonga motuhake mō te hauora hinengaro me te waranga i ia tau ā, kāore te nuinga e whakanohoia ki raro i te Ture Hauora Hinengaro.

Heoi anō mō ngā tāngata ka whai wheako ki raro i te ture he kino rawa te whakaaweawe.

Nā reira, me whai aronga mātou mai i ngā tāngata o Aotearoa mō te āhuatanga tika o te ture hauora hinengaro.

Kei te hiahia rongo mātou i ō whakaaro mō ētahi take whānui, tae ana ki:

Te kaupapa o te ture

Me pēhea te whakaū i te Tiriti o Waitangi

Te raukaha me te hanga whakatau

Te here taratahi me ētahi atu mahi here.

Kei a tātou te āheinga ki te waihanga mai i tētahi ture hauora hinengaro hou ka parahau i ngā mōtika o te tangata ka whai whakaaro ki te Tiriti o Waitangi ka mutu, ka whakapai ake i te tōkeke.

He nui ngā take hei whakaarotanga ake kei te hiahia mātou ki tō tautoko mai hei āwhina i tā mātou tārai i te āpōpō o te ture hauora hinengaro ki Aotearoa.

Mō te toenga o ngā kōrero toro atu ki te whārangi hauora hinengaro waranga hoki ki www.health.govt.nz

The Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 has not kept pace with the shift towards a recovery and wellbeing approach to care and has never been comprehensively reviewed.

He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction highlighted these issues. Since 2019, we have been working on immediate, short-term improvements under the current legislation. This includes releasing new guidelines to improve people’s experiences under the current Mental Health Act and making amendments to the Act to eliminate indefinite treatment orders, better protect people’s rights and improve safety.

We are now focusing on completely repealing and replacing the Mental Health Act and developing new mental health legislation for New Zealand. New legislation can support pae ora (healthy futures) by supporting self-determination and enhancing mana, encouraging whānau involvement, and strengthening recognition of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Although the Mental Health Act is only used for a small proportion of people each year, it has significant impact on the lives of those who do experience it, and their family and whānau. 

We have heard why change is needed, and the next step is to get clear direction for what new mental health legislation in New Zealand should look like.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please email [email protected].

About the public consultation

This discussion document contains information you may need to answer the questions on the Ministry's consultation hub

Consultation is open until 28 January 2022. You are welcome to give feedback on the whole discussion document or just the parts you are most interested in or affected by. 

You might have other views and concerns that we have not captured, and we encourage you to tell us about these. 

You can provide feedback by:

  • making an online submission at consult.health.govt.nz
  • answering the questions in the consultation document and emailing your responses to [email protected]
  • answering the questions in the consultation document and sending a hard copy to:
    • Consultation: Transforming mental health law in Aotearoa New Zealand
      Ministry of Health
      PO Box 5013
      Wellington 6140
  • sending us your views on a particular topic relating to the consultation by emailing [email protected]
  • submissions can be in any format, including video submissions. Please send these through as an attachment or link to [email protected]

How to get involved: online hui

It is important to hear what New Zealanders want from mental health legislation. Consultation will be open for three months, allowing plenty of time to review the information and respond with your thoughts and feedback. We also want people to be able to share their thoughts and views on how best we manage this in real time conversations.

We have a limited number of spaces available for consultation discussions. The dates and times are listed below, but more times can be added if required.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Mental Health and Addiction Directorate newsletter to keep up to date.

Navigating the discussion document

The discussion document has been divided into nine parts. Parts One and Two give background information about the current Mental Health Act, reasons for repealing and replacing it, and how new legislation fits into mental health and addiction services.

Parts Three to Nine each focus on specific topics for discussion. The topics covered are: 

  • Part 3 - embedding Te Tiriti and addressing Māori cultural needs
  • Part 4 - defining the purpose of mental health legislation, including considering a human rights approach and whether compulsory mental health treatment should ever be allowed
  • Part 5 - defining why, when and how compulsory mental health treatment, if permitted, might be appropriate
  • Part 6 - making sure people are able to use appropriate tools to support them to make decisions about their care and treatment
  • Part 7 - considering the use, or prohibition, of seclusion, restraint, or other restrictive practices
  • Part 8 - addressing the needs of specific populations: people from different cultures, family and whānau, children and youth, disabled people, and people from the justice system
  • Part 9 - ensuring people’s rights are protected and monitored.

Why it’s important to share your views

We can create new mental health legislation that respects the rights of individuals, family and whānau, recognises Te Tiriti o Waitangi and improves equity. 

The legislation should be a last resort for people in a vulnerable and distressed state. The care and treatment provided through legislation should be delivered in a way that recognises a person’s strengths, and new legislation should promote the safety of people, whānau and communities.

There are many things to consider, and we need your help in shaping the future of mental health legislation in New Zealand.

Publishing information

  • Date of publication:
    22 October 2021
  • ISBN:
    978-1-99-100764-3
  • HP number:
    7882
  • Ordering information:
    Only soft copy available to download
  • Copyright status:

    Owned by the Ministry of Health and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.

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