Alzheimers New Zealand conference - Opening Address


E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi, tēnā koutou katoa.

Talofa lava and thank you Catherine, for the warm welcome.

I’m sorry that I can’t be there in person today but it’s great for the opportunity to contribute virtually. 

I’d like to start by acknowledging: Alzheimers New Zealand, Sir Richard Faull, Chair Clare Hynd; Chief Executive, Catherine Hall, and their team for bringing together such an engaging programme. 

I would also like to acknowledge those of you here who are living with Dementia Mate Wareware, as well as your whānau and carers.

Supporting you to live well with Dementia Mate Wareware is the key reason why we are all here today. I hope that you find the conference inspiring and reassuring.

Achieving equity is at the core of this Government’s mahi.

We want a national health and disability system that ensures equitable access to healthcare – regardless of who you are, or where you live.

In order to achieve this, we need to recognise the diverse make up of our population and in particular, our ageing population.

In 2018, around 16% of the population was aged 65 years and over. By 2048, we expect this proportion to have increased to be about 23%. The proportion of people aged 85 and older is expected to double over the same period.

The number of people with Dementia is projected to more than double by 2050, and almost triple in Māori and Pacific communities.

To meet the needs of this population, we need equally diverse solutions and options for their ongoing care and support services.

The health and disability system must respond to the needs of Māori, Pacific peoples, disabled people, and people living rurally – particularly people living in remote parts of New Zealand.

For people with Demetia, their whānau and carers – this means services and supports should reflect their unique needs.

They must be accessible, appropriate and respectful for all.

I’m aware that this includes the way that services are provided.

Our workforce needs to be well trained, and reflect the diversity of the people it serves.

This includes understanding the cultural and spiritual needs of people so support matches their values and preferences.  

I want to acknowledge that current workforce shortages are causing additional stress and difficulties across the health system.

Our Government has committed to improving the systemic factors involved in attracting and retaining healthcare workers in New Zealand.

By removing some restrictions and making it easier for overseas-based healthcare professionals to immigrate and work here, we are providing an immediate boost to the workforce in a time when there is high global demand.

Cabinet has also committed $200 million dollars annually to help address pay parity across the community-based healthcare workforce.

This will improve workforce retention and the ability of organisations to provide high quality health care to some of our most vulnerable individuals.

I know we still have more work to do, but I want to assure you all that we are committed in making a difference that you will benefit from.

The Health Reforms and our interim plan Te Pae Tata, provide an opportunity to reimagine and strengthen services for kaumātua and older New Zealanders.

There are great opportunities through a strengthened and joined-up primary and community sector to achieve better health outcomes.

At the heart of our vision is choice and control for people, whānau and their communities.

Healthy Ageing is a key focus area of Te Pae Tata, and it outlines the need for stronger primary and community care to support the health of all New Zealanders in the community, including those living with Dementia.

This is being actioned through the implementation of the Dementia Mate Wareware Action Plan, which was endorsed by Cabinet in November 2021.

One of the objectives of the Plan is to strengthen leadership and capability across the sector.

As part of our mahi, the Leadership and Advisory Group and the Dementia Network have been established.

We’ve also allocated $12 million dollars over four years through Budget 2022 to begin testing improvements and innovations in support in three critical areas: post-diagnostic supports, Dementia Navigators, and innovative respite care.

This initiative seeks to improve access to culturally safe supports for Māori, Pacific and people with younger onset Dementia.

It will also provide us with good evidence about what works.

This is only the first step in making improvements and I know there is more we can achieve through this initiative once we understand what works.

I want to acknowledge the work of the Leadership and Advisory Group members, the Dementia Advisory Rōpū, and the members of the Alzheimers New Zealand Advisory Board for their work and dedication.

Through their connection with the Network, the advice they provide is truly reflecting the views of the wider Dementia community.

As we all know, across the government and public sectors, we can’t appropriately respond to any health challenge, or opportunity, in isolation. We must all play our part.

It’s clear that we need to continue investing in the services that ensure our population receives the support it requires to live good and healthy lives.

As your new Associate Health Minister, I’m committed to working with you and for you to ensure people with Dementia, their whānau and carers can live their best possible lives. 

We’re in this journey together, and I have full faith that Alzheimers New Zealand and the wider Dementia sector will continue shaping and driving needed improvements now and into the future.

I want to wish you all the best for the day ahead and I look forward to hearing more about the exciting opportunities before us to progress change for services and supports.

Thank you.