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Mental health 'big priority' in this year's Budget - Finance Minister

Mental health will be a major focus on this year's Budget, especially in supporting Māori and Pacific people.

The Government had made "a good start" turning around decades of underfunding in the health sector and would continue to do so, Finance Minister Grant Robertson told TVNZ1's Breakfast today.

In the upcoming Budget, health generally will be a top priority, but New Zealand had not taken mental health seriously in the past decades and the current Government was committed to finally doing that, Mr Robertson said.

Funding so far has helped in areas including reduced doctors visit prices, the nurses settlement, and mental health for young people in schools, particularly in Canterbury and Kaikōura.

However, Māori Council's Matthew Tukaki told TVNZ1's Breakfast earlier that he believed the Government was not doing enough to support the sector.

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The council’s executive director, Matthew Tukaki, joined Breakfast to discuss why the current DHB model is “not fit for purpose”. Source: Breakfast

Mr Robertson disputed the claim, saying the Government was investing heavily in health, "We've done a huge amount in health, [it] doesn't mean there isn't more to do but I don't think Matthew's being entirely fair on a Government that's only had 18 months."

He said he had a lot of admiration for the work Mr Tukaki had done, especially on suicide, but disagreed with his claims the Government has been sitting on its hands.

"Eighteen months compared to 10 years of consistent underfunding, billions of dollars not being put in, we've made a good start ... and that investment will keep rolling out," he assured.

"The thing I can absolutely assure Matthew and your viewers of is that mental health is one of the big priorities of the Budget that we'll be delivering at the end of May."

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The Government has made “a good start” turning around decades of underfunding in the health sector, Grant Robertson says. Source: Breakfast