NZNO's Blog

Suffrage Day – vote for great health leaders

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Pictured- NZNO Senior Policy Analyst, Marilyn Head with CTU Equal Pay campaigner Camilla Belich, outside parliament today.

By NZNO Chief Executive, Memo Musa

Today, NZ Suffrage Day, provides an opportunity to celebrate New Zealand’s suffrage achievements and look for ways to make further progress on gender equality issues in the health sector.

With the local government elections open for voting, now is a good time to think about how to use the hard-fought right to vote wisely.

The election of new District Health Boards (DHB) is a very important arm of our democracy. The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) has provided its members with an election issues guide sheet with key questions for DHB candidates.

Nurses, caregivers, healthcare assistants, kaiāwhina and midwives need to be supported in their work with great leadership and governance.

A living wage, safe workplaces, good faith collective bargaining and collective agreements, and equal pay for work of equal value are fundamental aspects of a fair and healthy society. We do not have access to all of these things yet for all workers in the health sector in New Zealand.

The nursing team’s first priority is improving health outcomes and patient safety. Nurses need the right tools and enough staff to deliver best care. Nurses have developed Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM) for safe staffing in public hospitals, but not all hospitals are making full use of this tool yet. Aged care does not have mandatory minimum safe staffing levels. Safe workplaces are not nationally consistent for all health staff.

This morning we supported the ongoing call for the government to support the Equal Pay Principles. At parliament steps the Council of Trade Unions delivered white roses for women MPs to encourage them to endorse the principles.

The people making governance decisions for DHBs hugely affect the health and wellbeing of families, workers and communities. In New Zealand although women have had the vote for over a hundred years, not enough women are standing for election or being elected into governance roles. There is a gender imbalance in the board room. Local body and DHB elections are therefore also an opportunity to bring more capable women onto the board as well as more board members with the requirements of our great nurses in mind. Seizing the right to vote leads to a healthier New Zealand.


Any DHB candidates who want to answer all the questions we have asked on the guide and have it published online can email their full names as on the ballot, contact details and answers to

Voting in DHB elections and more information on the voting process is available online here: 

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