Muldoon, Lange or Key? Who are New Zealand's best Prime Ministers?

A man who claims to have been on first name basis with all New Zealand prime ministers since 1957 has written a book about them, and those who came before.

Historian and former cabinet minister Dr Michael Bassett launched his book on Wednesday called New Zealand' Prime Ministers - From Dick Seddon to John Key.

Dr Bassett rates Peter Fraser, Richard Seddon, William Massey, Helen Clark, David Lange and John Key as our top six prime ministers.

As for prime minister's in the modern, Dr Bassett has some advise.

"They've got to be highly intelligent, high energy, a restlessness to solve new and old problems," he says.

"Above all good health and comfortable in your own skin - John Key style, you're a winner."

Dr Michael Bassett has recently released a book about our country’s leaders. Source: Q+A

People's review calls for independent inquiry into 'overwhelmed' mental health system

A people's review into mental health has found that New Zealand's mental health system is at such a boiling point, a full-scale independent inquiry is needed.

Lucy McSweeney has started a petition calling for more mental health in high schools. Source: Q+A

Psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald has been collating personal stories of New Zealanders' struggles as part of the people's review of the mental health system.

"If the government weren't going to carry out a review, we'd carry out our own," Mr MacDonald says. 

More than 500 people submitted their experiences of dealing with mental health issues.

Mr MacDonald says there'll be no surprises in what the group found when the report is released this week.

"There's lots of red flags, lots of problems, and lots of areas of the system are overwhelmed," Mr MacDonald said.

"Really clear effects in terms of the big tragic stories of preventable deaths, but also long waiting times for people, particularly for access of therapy services."

These long waiting times can be up to six months in some cases.

"When acute services in particular are being overwhelmed, it's really understandable that what they are essentially doing is picking up the problems of not being able to access help earlier," said Mr MacDonald.

Police feeling the pressure

Police are also feeling the pressure, with statistics showing they deal with 90 mental health-related issues every 24 hours.

In the last year, they were called out over 45,000 times, 5,000 than the year before.

Statistics from the Health Quality and Safety Commission show the number of outpatients who commit suicide is increasing.

In 2016, there were 142 outpatient suicides, compared to 125 in 2015.

There were 579 suicides declared by the coroner last year.

Calls for independent inquiry

The people's review will make a number of recommendations and says the mental health is at such a boiling point, a full-scale independent inquiry is needed.

"We're starting to hear some of the stories over and over again, of services failing, frustration and preventable deaths," Mr MacDonald said.

"I think we need to look at the system as a whole, rather than DHB by DHB inquiries, where it's hard to know whether those changes are being implemented."

But Mental Health director John Crawford says an inquiry is not the answer.

"Services are working very hard to make changes and improvements," Mr Crawford said.

"We wouldn't want any external process to distract or detract from the gains that people are making."

Reducing stigma around mental illness

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has released a draft suicide prevention strategy.

Some of the ideas include reducing the stigma around suicide and mental illness and increasing support for families.

Dr Coleman says an extra $300 million has been pumped into the mental health system.

"Money on its own is not going to fix the system, even though underfunding has caused the problems, we've now got some pretty systemic issues around the country," Mr MacDonald said.

Getting politicians, young people, the public, and the sector to talk about mental health is not always easy.

So all agree that any new, innovative ideas that can get people care early on is welcome.

Where can I get support and help from?

Below is a list of some of the services available which offer support, information and help. All services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless otherwise specified.

Lifeline 24/7 – 0800 543 354

Kidsline (aimed at children up to 18 years of age, available 24/7) – 0800 54 37 54

Depression Helpline (24/7) - 0800 111 757

Healthline - 0800 611 116

Samaritans - 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)

Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email

What's Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1 pm to 11 pm) - 0800 942 8787 - includes The Journal online help service - visit the website, email or free text 5626. This is a 24/7 service.


Lift off at Wairarapa Balloon Festival after Cyclone Cook causes delays

The Wairarapa Balloon Festival is underway, with hundreds of hot air balloons dotting the skies over Masterton.

One of the balloons, Alien Rocket, is ten storeys (29 metres) tall.

The "rocket" was made in Canada by pilot Alain Bard and brought to New Zealand.

The annual event is held five days over Easter weekend.

Ex-tropical Cyclone Cook caused issues over the first two days, with balloons unable to lift off.

Wairarapa Balloon Festival.
Wairarapa Balloon Festival. Source: 1 NEWS