Transforming our Mental Health Law – a public discussion document

Published online: 
22 October 2021

Repealing and replacing the Mental Health Act

Consultation is now closed – thank you to everyone who made a submission.

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. 

Next steps

All the submissions have been shared with an external, independent company. They will consolidate and analyse all the responses we receive to guide us as we develop new mental health legislation.

The research company will be providing the Ministry of Health with a thematic analysis of all the submissions, and individual submissions will not be made public.

The Minister of Health is due to report back to Cabinet with policy proposals for new legislation by the end of 2022. Once the Government has agreed to the policy for new legislation, a Bill will be created and will go through the Parliamentary processes.

This process includes select committee consideration when people will have the opportunity to comment on the Bill before it becomes law. For more information on all of the steps involved, please see the webpage How a Bill becomes law.

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

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.

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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