The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Questions and Answers

Background information

What is an Inquiry?

An Inquiry established under the Inquiries Act 2013, is independent of the Government.  Inquiries investigate and report on any matter of public importance – in this case, Mental Health and Addiction in New Zealand. An Inquiry is established by one or more Ministers and reports directly to the appointing Ministers – in this case the Minister of Health, who commissioned this Inquiry. The scope of an Inquiry is established in its Terms of Reference.

What are Terms of Reference?

Government set the Terms of Reference. They tell us what is – and what isn’t – in the scope of the Inquiry. They help shape where our efforts should be focused, provide guidance about people we should connect with and tell us we must report back by 31 October 2018. For more information on what is included in the Inquiry, please see the section ‘Scope of Inquiry’ below, and for the full Terms of Reference please see here:

What does the Inquiry hope to achieve?

We – the Inquiry Panel – want to generate hope and set a clear direction for the next five to ten years. A direction that Government, the mental health and addiction sectors and the broader community can pick up and implement to improve New Zealand’s approach to mental health and wellbeing.

How does the Inquiry hope to achieve its aims?

By working in line with the following principles:

  • Broad engagement: Open and inclusive engagement with a broad range of people is important to honouring the people centred approach of this Inquiry. We will korero with people who use services, their families and whānau, providers, advocates, sector groups, government officials and experts. Listening to a wide range of communities and stakeholders – and listening closely – will inform the findings, with peoples’ stories and ideas influencing the Inquiry’s report and recommendations.
  • Building on the knowledge and work done already: Many of the issues with the current system are already known and voiced by government agencies, providers and people who use services, their families and whānau.  We will draw on that knowledge (for example reports, data, direct advice, personal stories) when assessing where the system is at now and making recommendations for the future.
  • Focus on solutions: This Inquiry does not seek to redefine the issues.  We will focus on the future and providing actionable solutions – what can be done locally and nationally.

Who is undertaking the Inquiry?

The Inquiry is led by a Panel of six New Zealanders with diverse backgrounds, bringing their unique experiences. We will work alongside a secretariat team, including researchers and analysts at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) as per the Inquiries Act 2013.

Given the interwoven nature of the issues and the scope of what we have been tasked to do in the Terms of Reference, the Panel and wider team will work closely with the Ministry of Health and the health sector, as well as people from across the following government agencies: New Zealand Police, Ministry of Justice, Department of Corrections, Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education and the Treasury. The Inquiry will also seek input from Housing New Zealand, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Accident Compensation Corporation and Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.

Who are the Panel members?

The six panel members:

  • Professor Ron Paterson (Chair)
  • Dr Barbara Disley
  • Sir Mason Durie
  • Dean Rangihuna
  • Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath
  • Josiah Tualamali’i.

Bios for each member are on the About us webpage.

Connecting with the Inquiry

How can I contribute to the Inquiry?

The Inquiry intends to:

  • Publish a consultation document inviting interested people and organisations to provide written submissions.
  • Meet with people who use mental health and addiction services, their families and whānau, plus providers, advocates, sector groups and experts. This will include people representing Māori, youth, Pacific persons, older people, people who might find themselves excluded for a range of reasons, immigrant and refugee groups, LGBTIQA+, prison populations and rural/farming communities.
  • Meet with government officials from Ministry of Health, New Zealand Police, Ministry of Justice, Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education, Department of Internal Affairs, Department of Corrections,  the Treasury,  Housing New Zealand, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Accident Compensation Corporation, and Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.
  • Hold public (and private when requested) meetings, hui, fono and hearings around the country. National and local agencies and stakeholder representatives, as well as people who reach out to us with advice, will help us decide where to visit.
  • Engage through social media and through our website (opportunities will be advised).

Our estimated timing for engagement is:

  • Consultation document release: end March 2018
  • Written submissions: April – May 2018
  • Hearings: May – June 2018
  • Direct engagement with interested parties: March – August/September 2018.

We will answer questions and engage broadly throughout the Inquiry. We have the flexibility to respond and adapt our approach if necessary.  We will always be contactable through our email address –

Please see our Opportunities to connect webpage.

Will the Inquiry post other information on the website, apart from the consultation documents?

Yes, the Inquiry will update the website regularly so everyone can follow the progress of the Inquiry and know when and how they can be involved. The Chair, and potentially other members of the Inquiry panel, will provide regular updates here. The website also has:

Will there be a separate consultation document and process for Mental Health, and another for Addiction?

No, there will be one consultation document. However, the Inquiry panel recognises the needs of users of mental health and addiction services  are often different. There will be opportunities to engage on all issues of concern.

Will the submissions be public?

There are options for public and private written and oral submissions:

  • Written submissions will be made public on the Inquiry’s website. However, every submitter can opt for their submission to be private (not published on the website).
  • Oral submitters can opt for a private hearing.

Will the content of my submission, if used in the Inquiry report, be confidential? 

It is possible that some content from submissions, for example, personal stories and experiences, may be referenced or included in the Inquiry report.  As a matter of good practice, personal information will be excluded and stories, and experiences will be anonymised where possible.  We will not make public any information supplied under an expression of confidentiality.  Submitters may point out sections of information they do do not want included in any way (even anonymised).

If I have done work relevant to the Inquiry, how can I let the Panel members know?

If you have useful information you would like to share with us, please email us at

How will I know if the Inquiry is going to visit in my area?

This information will be available on the Opportunities to connect webpage and through our social media channels. Local agencies will promote engagement opportunities. 

When will the report be publicly available and where?

The Inquiry report will be submitted to the Minister of Health by 31 October 2018. The Minister will then present the Inquiry report to the House of Representatives as soon as practicable – in accordance with section 12 of the Inquiries Act – making the Inquiry public. It will then be published on the Inquiry’s website.

Will anything change before the published report in October?

It is for the Government to decide how to respond to the Inquiry report after 31 October. In the meantime, the Terms of Reference state that ‘the Government is already taking steps to address some immediate service gaps and pressures, including increasing funding for alcohol and drug addiction services, increasing resources for frontline health workers, putting more nurses into schools, extending free doctors’ visits for all under 14 year olds, providing teen health checks for all year 9 students and providing free counselling for those under 25 years of age’.

Scope of the Inquiry

What services and interventions does this Inquiry cover?

The Inquiry will make recommendations to improve the structure of public services that treat mental health and addiction, and to prevent mental health and addiction problems developing. The Inquiry will have a specific focus on preventing suicide and the support available to people after someone has committed suicide.

The Inquiry will look beyond the health sector. It will recognise the complexity of the topic – crossing many sectors and communities – and take a broad approach to mental health and wellbeing, including discussion of the causes of mental health and addiction problems. Recommendations are likely to be about the mental health and addiction sector and the factors leading to poor mental health and addiction including (but not limited to):

  • poverty
  • unemployment
  • domestic violence
  • discrimination (including racism, homophobia, and transphobia)
  • education.

The Inquiry will focus on equity of access and better outcomes, especially for Māori and other groups that we know have the poorest outcomes.

What will the Inquiry not cover?

The Inquiry will not review individual incidents or cases within current services.  These are expressly outside the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. The Inquiry Panel will refer individual incidents or cases within current services to the appropriate pathway, for example the Health and Disability Commissioner or relevant authorities.

Will the Inquiry review legislation such as the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 and the Substance Abuse (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 2017?

The Inquiry will not undertake formal reviews of legislation but recommendations may require legislative changes.

Are New Zealand’s suicide rates and services for those at risk being considered by this Inquiry?

Yes, this Inquiry has a focus on prevention, including preventing suicide.  

Will the Inquiry take into account the broad range of work already done to define problems with mental health and addictions services, and suggestions for improvement?

Yes, the Inquiry will to build on the knowledge and work already done. Many of the issues with the current system are already known and voiced by government agencies, providers and users of mental health and addiction servicers, their families and whānau.  We are determined to tap into this existing work and thinking about what is working well, what isn’t, where the gaps in services are, and what the potential solutions might be. We will draw on that knowledge (reports, data, direct advice, personal stories) when assessing where the system is currently at, and making recommendations for the future.

Addressing specific needs

How will the Inquiry deal with the specific needs of those with addictions?

The Inquiry recognises that people experiencing an addiction have different needs.  There will be a range of opportunities for the addictions sector to engage, including direct meetings, panel hearings and making submissions. When necessary, separate recommendations will be made to make sure meaningful changes to addiction services are included.

Will the Inquiry engage in ways that respects New Zealand’s cultural diversity?

Drawing from our experience and key stakeholders’ input, we will create an engagement plan with distinct engagement methods for different stakeholder groups as per the Terms of Reference.

At this stage, the priority groups identified are Māori, youth, Pacific people, people with disabilities, minority, immigrant and refugee groups, LGBTIQA+ communities, prison populations, the elderly and rural/farming communities.

While we will have an engagement plan, we can evolve and adapt as needed. Different Panel members will lead the engagement processes with different priority groups. For example, youth engagement will be led by Josiah Tualamali’i, who is experienced in supporting young people to speak and be heard about key decisions. We will use tools like Shier’s Pathway to Participation and Le Va’s Pacific Youth Participation Guideto make sure we get this right.

How will the Inquiry manage sensitive issues?

The Inquiry’s sensitive topics and the need to collect information from and about potentially vulnerable people requires the following processes:

  • secure systems at the Department of Internal Affairs to manage sensitive information with robust privacy processes, as set out in the Privacy Act 1993 and the Health Information Privacy Code.
  • information about available support to distribute to people if needed.
  • face-to-face engagement. We aim to engage face-to-face with people in the community as much as we can, given our tight time frame.

How will the Inquiry manage confidentiality issues of either written or oral submissions?

The Inquiry will store all information on a secure database at the Department of Internal Affairs. No information will be shared if it is disclosed as confidential. Submitters can indicate if they are providing a private written submission or requesting a private oral hearing.

About the recommendations

Will the Inquiry’s recommendations be specific?

Yes, recommendations will be pragmatic and implementable, with a focus on short- and long-term solutions at the national and local level. We aim to present recommendations that Government, the mental health and addiction sectors and the broader community can pick up and implement – to make real, positive change. We envisage specific recommendations about mental health, addiction and suicide prevention that take into account the needs of each priority group identified in the Terms of Reference.

Will the recommendations only be for Government?

No, the Inquiry will make recommendations that the mental health and addiction sector and the broader community can pick up and implement themselves.

Will the outcomes of the Inquiry affect funding for services?

Yes, the Inquiry report will likely look at funding implications and recommendations for the future, but the Government will ultimately decide on funding in the 2019 budget and out years.

After the Inquiry report is published

Who is responsible for implementing the Inquiry’s outcomes after October 2018?

Once we have provided our report to Government and it has been made public, the Inquiry has no official capacity or powers. The report will be a mandate for action.  It will specify proposed roles and responsibilities for the Government, the mental health and addiction sectors and the broader community to implement the recommendations. However, Government will decide whether the recommendations are accepted and resourced.  If the Government does agree with and support the proposed changes in the Inquiry report, it will then be up to all stakeholders to translate the recommendations into real change.

What happens after the Inquiry has published its report?

The website will continue to have all relevant information with a link to the Inquiry report.