Candidates make pledges on health, mental health and housing

Fairfax NZ

Candidates from National, Labour, NZ First, Green Party and ACT were asked to make pledges on health, mental health and housing at a public meeting.

Five party candidates were put on the spot to provide pledges at a public meeting hosted by Business Professional Women in Warkworth on July 12.

Following a Q & A panel which focused on health, mental health and housing, Mark Mitchell (National), Marja Lubeck (Labour), Hayley Holt (Green Party), Tracey Martin (NZ First) and Beth Houlbrooke (ACT) were asked by panel moderator Kristina Paterson to make a yes or no pledge on behalf of their parties.

Asked if National pledged to restore $1.85 billion cuts to health funding, Mitchell said he didn't agree with the numbers.

Hayley Holt, Marja Lubeck, Tracey Martin, Mark Mitchell and Beth Houlbrooke at the Q&A.

Hayley Holt, Marja Lubeck, Tracey Martin, Mark Mitchell and Beth Houlbrooke at the Q&A.

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However, "the National Government is very proud of the fact we have continued to increase our funding every year off a strong, growing economy," he said.

Martin said, while every budget has had more money, there are also more people to distribute it to, and therefore per capita funding needs to increase.

The candidates take a question from the floor.

The candidates take a question from the floor.

"I commit, on behalf of NZ first, to equalling and addressing the per capita funding for health services," she said.

Lubeck, on behalf of Labour, and Holt, on behalf of Green Party, pledged to restore the health funding cuts.

"We have an increasing, as well as an ageing population, as well as inflation, and none of the funding that National has put in there has kept up with those three factors," Lubeck said.

When asked if the National Government would pledge to carry out an independent mental health enquiry and target spending to address any issues found, Mitchell said his "gut feeling was no".

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Mental health was discussed emotively in the debate, with all candidates agreeing New Zealand's high suicide rates - including the highest teen suicide rate in the developed world - needs addressing.

The Labour, Green Party and NZ First candidates pledged in favour of an independent enquiry into national mental health.

"In the first 100 days of a Labour-led Government, there will be an independent review on mental health where we will identify the gaps that we have in our mental health system, and we will put the resources where they are needed," Lubeck said.

"We just have to increase the funding now. We have the people there with the ability to do it and we have a great system - they're just underfunded and under resourced, so we could do that straight away," Holt said.

Mitchell said he supports National's Housing First policy, a two year pilot which aims to end homelessness in Auckland by putting 472 rough sleepers into permanent housing.

Martin said she "understands [the Housing First policy] is working rather well," but would look at other options for housing, including involving maraes and campgrounds in the road towards a solution.

Saying the government must be "more proactive", Martin said NZ First would not sell land to foreign buyers or landbank.

Houlbrooke declined to make any pledges on behalf of ACT, deferring questions to Mitchell.

The Maori Party was invited to attend the meeting, but sent their apologies.

 - Rodney Times

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