Zooming in on 2021

October 1, 2021

A future vision of a thriving health system, updates on safe staffing and handling difficult assisted dying conversations, were among topics covered when speakers zoomed in for the 2021 NZNO conference Our future – the health of Aotearoa last month. Just over 200 people registered for the online event.

NZNO’s annual conference and AGM

NZNO logoNZNO’s new president Anne Daniels and vice-president Nano Tunnicliff were welcomed into their roles at an online annual general meeting (AGM) last month, at which Kerri Nuku said she would stay on as kaiwhakahaere despite escalating racist abuse and threats.


Nuku – who has been kaiwhakahaere since 2009 – said her decision to stand again wasn’t taken lightly, after experiencing personal attacks. These attacks had been against “the very foundation which I stand on which is proud to be Māori and proud to have my last name, Nuku, and not have it run through the gutter and used and abused by people who don’t even know me”.

But she decided to continue as a role model to others enduring similar oppression.

“We have to be fearless. We have to be accountable for our communities and our communities deserve fearless, equity, presence and a voice, so unfortunately you’re left with me and we’re not going anywhere. Te poari are not going anywhere, they’re getting stronger,” she told members and staff.

Daniels – who resigned from the board last year – acknowledged there was past “history” between her and Nuku, but felt confident the pair could work together to lead NZNO and build its member-led approach. “We must all pull together in the same waka.”

Nuku acknowledged Daniels’ comments. “The words ‘member-led’ and ‘focused’ are critical to any union fighting against the grain for members and union rights.”

She would also work with Daniels to “inject te Tiriti into everything that we do”.

“The thing that sets us apart is our ability to keep together and not be torn apart by negative stuff through all sorts of ups and downs,” Nuku said. Staying together as the largest group of health-care workers – kaimahi haoura, tauira, midwives and nurses – was the most important thing that would steer NZNO in the right direction, she said.

Focus on pay equity

NZNO must now focus on pay equity, Nuku said. “We have been on this fight since 1920. We’ve been on this fight for far too long to get recognised as a predominantly female professional group, to be recognised and to be paid as professionals…”

Similarly, pay equity for workers in Māori and iwi providers must be a priority, Nuku said.

“We are an organisation that fiercely challenges social injustice, that fiercely fights for equity. But we can’t do that if only half of us are fighting that fight and the rest don’t believe in it.”

Outgoing acting president Tracey Morgan said despite pressures, the board had been “strong in solidarity and they’ve stood the test of criticism and are still here”.

Acting NZNO chief executive Mairi Lucas said management, in consultation with the board, had made “serious” cost savings across NZNO to avoid using any more reserve funds.

Cuts included limiting travel and face-to-face meetings, and ceasing the printed edition of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, which will move exclusively online. These measures were expected to together save around $1 million per annum. NZNO would also be looking at diversifying revenue by developing education and training programmes.

Membership committee chair Sandra Corbett said NZNO continued to “weather the storm” after a year of uncertainty. She applauded the nurses and health professionals who “spoke up bravely when their patients, colleagues and community’s health and safety was being compromised”.

With its alliances locally and internationally, NZNO could be a “global force”, Corbett said. She urged members to “focus on the positive attributes of the organisation while being honest about what is not working or needs to work better.

‘We’ve been on this fight for far too long to get recognised as a predominantly female professional group… and to be paid as professionals.’

“We can choose to leave baggage behind, and have a future focus that is positive, just and equitable.”

Plans to change NZNO structures and communications, suggested by members in a survey, were now on hold, at the request of the board, while the constitutional review report was being considered, Corbett said.

Watch the conference online

Hon Andrew Little, Minister of Health

Conference Opening address

Full set of 2021 NZNO Conference videos on YouTube