Mental Health Amendment Bill passes first reading


The Government has taken a significant step towards delivering on its commitment to improve the legislation around mental health as recommended by He Ara Oranga – the report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, Health Minister Andrew Little says.

The Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Amendment Bill (the Mental Health Act), which had its first reading in Parliament today, proposes amendments to the Mental Health Act to improve the protection of individual rights and safety of patients, for example by eliminating indefinite treatment orders, and enable more effective application of the Act,” Andrew Little said.

“This is an important milestone in our wider work to transform New Zealand’s approach to mental wellbeing, which includes ensuring our legislation is fit-for-purpose and upholds New Zealanders’ rights,” Andrew Little said.

“He Ara Oranga was clear that mental health legislation in Aotearoa needs to take a human rights-based approach involving modern approaches to care and treatment. He Ara Oranga also said the current Mental Health Act has fostered archaic and risk-averse attitudes towards people with mental health conditions.

“In addition to eliminating indefinite treatment orders, which have been criticised as a serious breach of human rights, the Bill will allow family members of patients to attend meetings audio-visually.

“This is a significant policy reform that has clearly been called for. I’m pleased that we are able to achieve this with this Bill rather than waiting for full repeal and replacement of the whole Act later this year.

“This is the first step in a full overhaul of the Mental Health Act. We will continue to progress the full repeal and replace work programme in collaboration with the sector and our communities.

“The Mental Health Act is almost 30 years old and is not working the way it should. It has been widely criticised for being out of step with Te Tiriti o Waitangi and New Zealand’s other domestic and international human rights commitments,” Andrew Little said.


Note for editors:

The Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Amendment Bill proposes to amend the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 by:

  • eliminating indefinite treatment orders
  • minimising the risk of harm to the patient or the public when transporting forensic patients who are ‘special patients’ as defined under the Mental Health Act
  • addressing technical drafting issues that will improve the administrative efficiency of the Act
  • removing the sunset date for technical amendments and audio visual link amendments made by the COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020.