‘Free’ prescriptions will have long-term costs – pharmacists

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Discount pharmacies like the Chemist Warehouse and Countdown supermarket stores do not ask for the usual $5 prescription charges. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The head of the Pharmacy Guild says community pharmacies are shutting down thanks to the influx of Australian-owned discount chains.

Chief executive Andrew Gaudin warns in the long-term, this will reduce access to essential healthcare services – particularly for people outside the main centers.

Discount pharmacies like the Chemist Warehouse and Countdown supermarket stores do not ask for the usual $5 prescription charges.

“They’re using their commercial buying power and clout and running a loss-leader model, Gaudin told RNZ’s Nine to Noon

“They’re absorbing the government’s $5 prescription charge. Effectively they’re manipulating government policy to buy market share, and drive and squeeze out the smaller, independent [owner-operator] pharmacies.”

Prescription co-payments were first introduced in the 1980s, and by the 2000s the cost had risen to double-digits. The then Labour-led government reduced the charge to $3, which rose to $5 in 2013 under the following National-led government.

In recent years big-box pharmaceutical retailers have started absorbing that cost, essentially making prescriptions free and giving them an advantage over smaller, locally owned outlets.

Gaudin said for a typical pharmacy to absorb the cost would mean taking a $120,000 hit. Unable to do so, 70 community pharmacies have closed in the last four years, according to the Pharmacy Guild. Last year alone saw 30 shut their doors.

In Auckland, Seema Rambisheswar permanently closed her Life Pharmacy store in Glenfield Mall just over a week ago, after working there for 22 years and owning it for 14.

“It’s quite sad the time has come for me to close,” she told Nine to Noon.

The writing was on the wall in 2020, when right after Covid-19 hit, a Chemist Warehouse opened in the same mall. Her landlord, assuming she’d struggle with rent, offered her a smaller venue.

“I said no because if I did that, I’d have to refit a store and defit my existing store… that would just not have been viable.”

She said big stores that don’t charge the co-payment have led customers into wrongly believing that pharmacies who do charge are pocketing the money.

“They have to realise it doesn’t. We collect it. We’re tax collectors. We collect it on behalf of the government and then we have to pay it back to the government. It doesn’t stay in our tills.

“Now that I’m closing, people are [saying], ‘We will pay you, please don’t close.’ But it’s too late. I’m at a point of no return…

“They’re using the co-payment as a loss-leader. People are not looking at the bigger picture… they need to wake up, because long-term there will be problems.”

“We care about our people. We care about our community and we don’t want them to be deprived of healthcare.” – pharmacist Seema Rambisheswar duration 20′ :24″

from Nine To Noon


“We care about our people. We care about our community and we don’t want them to be deprived of healthcare.” – pharmacist Seema Rambisheswar

Rambisheswar and Gaudin both say community pharmacies offer a range of services the discounters don’t – such as vaccinations, ongoing care and even simple things like advice on the medicines they’re dispensing.

Rambisheswar said despite the cost, she sometimes doesn’t charge the fee – particularly if the patient needs multiple medicines, each one costing $5.

“We don’t want in the long-run for people like that to be hospitalised, then there’s a burden on the hospital system and the cost on the government would be higher… We care about our people. We care about our community and we don’t want them to be deprived of healthcare.”

The Pharmacy Guild is currently in a legal battle with Te Whatu Ora, over former district health boards giving operational licences to two Countdown pharmacies that offer zero-free prescriptions.

The Wainuiomata Countdown was initially denied a licence, a decision overturned by a DHB official who said having free options for patients would increase equity of access to medicines. A lawyer for Te Whatu Ora said the guild’s members were more concerned about having retail competition, not public health.

Rambisheswar said either the co-payment needs to either be abolished or made compulsory so there’s an even playing field.

“We care about our people. We care about our community and we don’t want them to be deprived of healthcare.”

Removing prescription charge has dramatic impact on odds of hospitalisation – study

A New Zealand-based study published in January found “prescription co-payments are likely to increase overall healthcare costs”, with the small fee discouraging people from collecting their medicines, and ending up needing hospital care as a result. The authors “strongly recommend that the $5 prescription co-payments be removed for those with high health needs and low incomes, or be scrapped entirely”.

“[Some people] go without their medicines, and as a result their health problems get worse, so they need hospital care. This is bad for them, their whānau, and the health system,” research lead Pauline Norris said.

The study found for every 100 people who received free prescriptions, 33 were admitted to hospital and stayed for 208 days.

For every 100 people who still had to pay the $5 charge, 41 were admitted to hospital and stayed for 326 days.

“New Zealander’s are exempted from the $5 charge after 20 items in a year, so revenue is, at most, $100 per person… The cost of one day of hospital care in New Zealand has been estimated at $1000 to over $1500.”

Removing the charge reduced the number of admissions for mental health problems, the number of admissions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and the length of stay for COPD admissions, the study found.

A recent New Zealand health survey found 3.3 percent of adults reported going without a medicine because of costs. This was more common for Māori and Pacific peoples, and those living in areas of high deprivation.

Gaudin said removing the co-payment altogether would not only help smaller pharmacies with a community focus stay in business, but help with the government’s stated goal of easing cost of living pressures.

“Not only can we improve health outcomes, have a better service offering and have a more sustainable network of pharmacies, we could also remove a cost of living pressure which would fit neatly with the government’s top priority of dealing to that.”

Petition at Parliament

Posted on Updated on

In this video we start at the doorsteps of Parliament.

Dr Nikki Turner and United Community Action Network are delivering a petition to Riccardo Menendez March

Debbie Leyland from UCAN started with an introduction to the speakers, next was Nikki Turner and then Riccardo.

Please click the image below to view video

Notes from Newtown & Strathmore Community and Health Network Meetings

Posted on Updated on

August / September 2022

Two meetings were held in August and September with representatives from community health groups, local church groups, health providers, community centres, activists in the Newtown and Strathmore areas and representatives from Te Whatu Ora Capital Coast to talk about the health reforms, locality plans and for networking of health and community agencies working in the area.

Below is a summary of the presentations, discussion, issues, questions and ideas:

Summary of discussion at meeting 18/08/2022:

The Health and Disability Reforms: Te Whatu Ora Capital Coast

* Te Whatu Ora, at a district level, is now required to hear what is important and what the need is to feed this into local plans

* The reforms are not about changing services for people who it already works for. They are about re-directing services to reach and making a difference to people with whom we haven’t previously been able to reach/engage

* Equity – starting with people that need health services the most e.g. Māori, Pacific, Disabled, Homeless communities

* Commitment to delivering pae ora/ healthy futures

* Previous engagement across Newtown/Strathmore communities has occurred at an informal level. Previous engagement work that has been done and is being used to inform future conversations

* Localities will have “locality plans” which will be informed by the people, communities and providers who live there.

o Embedding Te Tiriti o Waitangi into the plans through Mana Whenua leadership

o Must be agreed by the Iwi Māori Partnership Board – Atiawa Toa Hauora Board, Te Aka Whaiora and Te Whatu ora

o Likely will be aspirational and visionary

o Ensuring we capture voices/representation from our priority populations (Māori, Pacific, Disability)

* In Porirua the formal establishment of the prototype locality has been led by Ngāti Toa and Te Whatu Ora are supporting them.

* We are waiting to hear what establishment leadership will look like and how Wellington might be consolidated (e.g. 1 or 2 localities) and will become more clear over time.

* Te Whatu Ora have a legislative requirement to write the locality plans:

o Representative of the communities

o Re-align and re-invest in service provision based on needs of the community

o Alignment of health services around Pae Ora model – Whānau ora, Mauri ora and Wai ora.

o Supporting providers to network, communicate and connect

o Understanding the current mechanisms and existing ways providers and communities connect and building on this.


Community Discussion/ Questions

* Q: Are communities represented on boards?

o A: Key thing is for the board to get assurance that community voice is feeding into the plans

* Q: How will elders be prioritised?

* Q: How will Te Whatu Ora manage communication between boards and communities across the system?

o i.e. if a communities needs/suggestions are not reflected in local plans (as a priority action) how will this get feedback to the communities, even if it is a longer term aspiration.

* Include longer term feedback mechanisms in comms plan. For example, when initiatives/ideas/services aren’t included in immediate plans, feedback mechanisms for longer term aspirations should be thought of and planned for.

* Community groups bridge the gap between governmental agencies from different sectors. We need to work across the system if we want to embed a holistic hauora/ te whare tapa wha model effectively. This is the key to how people want to experience their health

* Spiritual forums and leaders should be considered to reach more people

* Community centres such as Strathmore Park CC are not a health or social provider. How might the roll out of localities include CC i.e. will health providers be commissioned to come to Strathmore CC rather than being commissioned to provide the service themselves?

* Relationships and responsibilities need to be clear to communities.

* Be honest about the limitations and be equal with the community. We are all one and we should behave in a way where relationships are at the front. Job titles and contracts don’t dictate who you are to a community

* Providers have dominance over the voice of the communities that they represent and are speaking on behalf of communities. Communities want to take back their voice.

Meeting notes – 8/09/2022

Discussion/ Questions

* How is Te Whatu ora ensuring the change happening is sustainable?

* How will we ensure the voice of people on the frontline are contributing to the development of plans?

* What does the annual planning cycle looking like?

* What are the timescales for change and implementation?

* What role will PHOs play in the new structure?

* What does a model look like for Wellington?

* How do we ensure the “why” in a locality plan? How will needs and aspirations of communities be reflected in the commissioning cycle?

* How will commissioners balance the priorities/demands of improving national outcomes, with locality directed need when the two do not align? In terms of investment, new initiatives.


* How could funding change for providers? Considerations should be given to

#1. Priority populations that provider serves,

#2. How the gentrification of urban areas affects the funding formula and

#3. That changes should be agreed together


* Flexible service delivery – agreeing the “what” and allowing flexibility on “how” that is achieved. Communities know what is needed, are already well-networked and are able to reach whanau and people who do not typically engage with health services or “community consultation”

* For community consultation to be joined up across sectors – recognising that wellbeing and health is much wider than the services health offers.

o How can we work together?

o Connecting and relationship building around people, whanau, and communities.

* To enable the resources and skills to solve problems at the level which they arise


* Shared power, shared accountability, shared decision making

* Personal information is sacred

* Invested community = meaningful change

* Embedding relationships into service delivery through trusted services

Ideas/ Actions:

* Develop a community health profile

* Developing a locality pack for the Newtown/Strathmore community

* Develop a strawman community proposal on a page/ articulating the needs in the Newtown/Strathmore areas, agreed on by the community

o Develop a working overarching vision for the community to test and adjust – aspirational collective vision

o Outcomes to collectively achieve

o Priority areas (statements of intent)

o History of the area – i.e. service and health provision history – what is the story for Newtown/Strathmore?

* What activities/services have been stopped that should be started again?

What exists now that doesn’t work for people and whanau?

Where do we have unnecessary duplication?

Where do we have gaps in service delivery that impact on the continuum of care?

o What could we measure to know whether we are making a difference? What statistics or outcome measures?

o Who are our key partners?

o How will the community be informed and engaged?

o Do we have any opportunities for quick wins?

* Developing the local narrative

o Overlaid with health and social data/ Gentrification over time

– Form an initial point of contact group with 4-5 of the leaders/ people present at meeting.

Notes written by Chontelle King and Eileen Brown

Parliament Petition

Posted on Updated on

Petition of Nikki Turner on behalf of United Community Action Network: Removing prescription charges for Community Service Card holders

Published date: 15 Sep 2022

Petition request

That the House of Representatives urge the Government to amend the Health Entitlements Cards Regulations 1993 to remove all prescription costs for Community Service Card holders.

Petition reason

Low-income households are currently experiencing significant hardship. Many are reliant on important medications. We consider that the $5 cost per item to a maximum of 20 items in any one year is a significant barrier to accessing these medications. Some large commercial organisations use their private resources to waive the $5 fee. This is not feasible for many community pharmacies. We believe this problem can be rectified by amending the Health Entitlement Cards Regulations 1993.

Signatures are now being accepted

Closing date: 2 Nov 2022 NZ Time


The petition closing date has been extended until 9 November 2022.

Please follow the link and sign the petition, and tell everyone you know to also sign.

Link to this parliament petition

Regional Housing Action Plan (RHAP) – including the whole population

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To Hon. Tracey Martin, Chair Wellington Regional Leadership Committee

Thanks very much for the RHAP. As you know, UCAN has been actively concerned for over a decade by the fragmented and partial responses to this issue. We are very relieved to see that your Committee will form a clear and transparent governance structure to implement the Plan

I wonder if we can have a conversation about the regional partnerships that are envisaged to advance the inclusive objectives of the Plan. We are particularly interested in the way specific populations will be defined in the next regional Housing and Business Capacity Assessment (HBA) (NPS-UD 3.23(2)). To this point specific, potentially vulnerable, groups have been excluded from those Assessments. I think that process relates to the RHAP Key Moves C5, C6 and D1.

We noted that when the Plan was adopted by the WRLC committee members began to specify populations of concern, namely people with enduring mental illness, tangata whaikaha and superannuitants who are renters. We saw that as a

We noted that when the Plan was adopted by the WRLC committee members began to specify populations of concern, namely people with enduring mental illness, tangata whaikaha and superannuitants who are renters. We saw that as a constructive next step but as far as we can see
those references were not carried forward into the record of the meeting.

There has been a lot of discussion over the years that can be used to begin to frame and estimate
need. We attach particular importance to the report by Coroner Robb because we were
personally involved in the tragic events and inquest related to one of those cases – an innocent
victim living in the terms of a Community Treatment Order who believed he had been provided
with secure housing. Consequently we feel a duty to support the Coroner’s findings related to the
system wide inadequacies that he identified, including the reluctance of the regional MHAIDS to
define the extent of the shortfall in housing and accommodation.

We are, of course, well aware that there are other groups such as ours with their own specific
commitments. For example the Howard League has made considered submissions on the draft
Wellington City District Plan that are similar to our own although they go further in beginning to
address the complexities of managing zones of intensification and inclusion.
As you would expect, we are very hopeful that the WRLC will draw on an integrated account of
what the health sector is referring to as ‘lived experience’ to inform the frameworks, statistics
and models that are envisaged in the Plan.


Dear Debbie
Thank you for your recent letter regarding the WRLC Regional Housing Action Plan. As you
have indicated the work programme of the WRLC includes both undertaking an updated
Housing and Business Capacity Assessment (HBA) and implementing our recently approved
Regional Housing Action Plan (RHAP).
We have recently commenced work on our HBA and will be undertaking this at a totally
regional level for the first time i.e. including all the councils in the region, not just those required
to undertake an HBA. As you have noted one of the things, we need to consider in this
assessment is identifying the needs of a range of groups. This is a key action for us, and we
will take your comments into account when undertaking this work, noting that available data
for some groups, particularly at a regional level, is often hard to find or is limited.
We have a range of entities and interests involved in the implementation of our RHAP and
those people represent housing across the housing spectrum.
The WRLC has been, and will continue to, draw on a wide range of data sources and
qualitative information both in implementing the RHAP and developing the HBA.
To ensure you keep yourself and your network up to date with our work, you may want to
subscribe to our monthly newsletter at Wellington Regional Leadership Committee (wrlc.org.nz).

Yours Sincerely
Hon. Tracey Martin, Chair Wellington Regional Leadership Committee

Free Public Transport

Posted on Updated on

8 July 2022

UCAN NZ Endorses the following;

The Free Fares organising team would love to call your attention to a couple of upcoming public transport campaigns. These have a lot of crossover with our kaupapa, so we thought that as a member organisation of the Aotearoa Collective for Public Transport Equity you may also be interested in supporting.

Vote Climate campaign

A number of organisations which are part of this coalition are launching a campaign for local elections called Vote Climate. The campaign asks are:

  • More public transport, more often
  • More affordable public transport
  • Safer and easier walking & cycling
  • More inter-city and regional public transport

What you can do:

  1. Have your organisation Join Vote Climate in support: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSce0IhDYeHhWXxQXGK8lfTqqJvtj4JMeBmSh2kTOiFNUtRRpw/viewform?usp=sf_link 
  2. Attend the online campaign launch, on Wednesday 6th July at 10-10.30am: https://psa-org-nz.zoom.us/webinar/register/9116563849273/WN_6hSQb0duQSilDnfnbCV_1Q

For more information, see the summary document attached. Feel free to contact Brendon Lane from PSA if you have more questions, brendon.lane@psa.org.nz.

Greater Wellington fares consultation

Greater Wellington Regional Council are currently consulting on public transport fares, and they have proposed some minor fare reductions for off-peak concessions. 

What you can do:

Get in touch with Hana Pilkinton-Ching if you’re interested in signing on to the joint submission or if you’d like more information, campaigns@vuwsa.org.nz.

Finally, welcome to our two newest coalition members, Victoria University of Wellington and Massey University. VUW’s press release led to this great article on Stuff and a segment on the Breakfast show on Tuesday morning. It’s great to have this media coverage and we hope to see this momentum grow!

Ngā mihi nui, 

The Free Fares organising team

Vote Climate

We believe that there has never been a better time to focus on the importance of investing in public
transport and other climate-friendly modes of transport. We are seeking to form a coalition for
change that will challenge candidates in the October local body elections to commit to such a policy
platform. We will also use this platform to encourage under-represented voter groups to enroll and
vote for the change they want.

We are a broad coalition of unions, climate action, public transport and cycling groups that are
working together to encourage our politicians to do the right thing – take climate action now. We
believe there are a number of key actions these politicians can do, and these form the basis of our

Transport is one of Aotearoa’s biggest emissions sources. We drive more than almost any
other country. If more of us used public transport, we’d see reduced emissions, inequality
and costs from congestion and pollution. The recipe for more public transport passengers is
simple: More public transport and more affordable fares.
o Cars and other passenger vehicles were responsible for 27 percent of New Zealand’s
gross carbon dioxide emissions in 2018.
o The Government has committed to help households reduce their transport
emissions by improving access to affordable, sustainable transport options, including
improving travel choices and accessibility by providing people with more convenient,
affordable and frequent buses and trains, as well as safer walkways and cycle lanes.
o The Government introduced public transport fare reductions in March 2022 and
then extended this subsidy in the 2022 Budget.

We need to push politicians to go further to make the emissions reductions needed.
These are broad enough to encourage social change groups to join the coalition whilst allowing
these groups to have their own voice on how the asks might be achieved.

More public transport, more often
o More frequent services in cities and towns, and between centers and across regions
More affordable public transport
o Increased trialing of reduced fare or free services to encourage and broaden uptake
Safer walking & cycling
o Investment in infrastructure to make cycling and walking safer
More inter-city and regional public transport
o Investing in train and bus services that make travel between cities, towns and
regions easier

To have climate change, and public transport and mode change investment as the central
issue for the upcoming local government elections in October 2022
To have nation-wide a majority of local body candidates commit to our policy asks
To enroll new voters who support our policy platform and encourage them to vote for
candidates that support our asks

o Upholding Te Tiriti O Waitangi and Tino Rangatiratanga, working in ways which honor them
o Building mana enhancing relationships
o Inclusivity and accessibility
o Equality and equity
o Climate justice
o Collective action and universalism
o Evidence-based

o Launch early July
o Enrollment – July until roll closes on 12th August
o Campaign – Aug onwards – highlight and encourage candidates to adopt and actively support
our platform through personal endorsements and public meetings
o Mobilisation – Sept-Oct – mobilize supporters to vote for supporting candidates and post in
their ballots

Given that we are looking for this to be a nation-wide campaign, it be will primarily be a digital
campaign that will include:
o A campaign website – campaign asks, voter registration, candidates who support our asks
o Social media – to share events and commitments – Facebook and Twitter
o Local campaign meet-the-candidate meetings – streamed or posted to social media

We know that often groups campaigning in this space have limited time and resources. We hope
that by joining together we can amplify our calls for climate action and make it happen. Your
involvement might include:
o Adding your logo to our supporters’ page
o Sharing our campaign updates with your membership
o Sharing our social media posts with your membership
o Hosting a campaign event
o Contributing some people resource or donating to the campaign

This is our chance to put climate change actions in the public eye and
build a movement. Will you join us?

Submission to GWRC Future Fares Review consultation by the Pōneke Collective for Public Transport Equity

The recommendations and ideas presented in the future fares review are a good step in the right direction towards more equitable fares in the Greater Wellington Region. We submit that the GWRC could and should go further and make fares completely free for the target groups instead of a 35% off peak discount

We see the need for:

  1. Easy-to-understand fares, so people on low incomes can allocate personal budgets successfully. The current direction of the 35% off peak discount for certain groups has the potential to be confusing and frustrating for the very people it seeks to help.
  2. Fare capping, if implemented, needs to be simple and actually have a maximum cap on the amount a person can spend on public transport in any given day or week. Ideally fare capping would be avoided and fares would be free instead.
  3. Inclusion of all total mobility services in the proposed discounts. We are disappointed to see total mobility taxi services excluded from this 35% off peak concession, as we feel the benefits of including mobility services in this discount greatly outweigh any costs. 
  4. Free public transport for school age children and young people at all times. We strongly advocate for free public transport for all children regardless of whether or not they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. This would produce positive benefits for teenagers particularly.

It is excellent that GWRC is implementing central government’s half price fares for community service card holders permanently, and adding an additional 35% discount off the remaining fare during off-peak times. However, for all of these groups, why not just go the extra bit and make it free? The system created here is confusing and difficult to navigate for the exact target groups it wants to help. For people who aren’t worrying about their budget or finances and don’t factor in public transport costs hugely, this is a nice discount. But for people who need to work out every week how much they can feasibly spend on public transport, this is a mathematical challenge. They now have to navigate a web of concessions which they may or may not be eligible for, some at one time of the day and some at other times of the day. This whole process would be much simpler, and massively impact transport equity,  if fares were fully free for these target groups. Even if it was only free for these target groups during off peak times, that would still be simpler than the suggested system. 

Fare capping

Our strong submission is that fare capping needs to be very simple to understand. We can see how fare capping could be beneficial, but the proposed system will only create further unnecessary complexity. The proposed discount is not a real fare cap, as it will still cost increasing amounts of money and have no cap on the amount spent every day or week. This extra 35% discount adds further confusion with extra concessions depending on how many rides a day or week a person takes, which could be avoided by a straight and simple cap on fares after a certain amount of daily or weekly rides, or even better, simply making it free from the start. 

Concessions for school age children

In terms of high-level goals, we believe that free public transport for school aged children will increase wellbeing and social participation for children, particularly for those on low incomes. We would like to see families on lower incomes having greater access to transport and also can see a future where children who adopt public transport habits now will continue to prioritise public transport usage into adult life.

Narrowing in on the specific concessions, a 35% discount for school aged children during off peak times is a good step in the right direction, but there are multiple issues to consider. Firstly, school aged children use public transport to go to school, and school buses are at peak times. Therefore, this discount realistically only benefits school aged children who are not at school or who are travelling after the evening peak finishes at 6.30pm, or on weekends. In the week, this concession is only really going to benefit school aged children who attend an after school event which runs late, like perhaps some sports or rehearsals, and even then only on their trip home. While this is admirable, it could go a lot further and benefit more children. 

On weekends this concession benefits school aged children as well, but GWRC is considering making it free for school aged children on weekends when accompanied by a parent or guardian. It would, in our view, make more sense to simply make public transport fares free for school aged children on the weekends. While for young children riding with a caregiver makes sense, to incentivise mode shift for high school aged children dropping this requirement would be best. This would also reduce congestion as parents would not need to drive their children out to sports games or events on the weekends, as these could be accessed for free by children using public transport on their own. High school aged children care deeply about the environment and climate change and are likely to actively seek to reduce emissions where they can, and making public transport free on weekends without needing a caregiver is a better way to incentivise this change. If GWRC is considering making public transport free for school aged children during the weekend, then why not extend that to off peak travel throughout the whole week and drop the caregiver requirement? 

Concessions for tertiary students

A further 35% discount for off peak fares for eligible tertiary students is an excellent step towards free fares for all tertiary students, but excludes tertiary students who are not studying full time. Many students cannot study full time because they have to work to afford to pay for rent and other expenses, or for other reasons. Part-time tertiary students would hugely benefit from fare concessions and should not be excluded from this discount. It is also worth mentioning that students often need to travel at peak times to attend lectures and tutorials at university. Therefore, this concession will not be relevant to many students’ regular use of public transport, and would significantly benefit students if it were applicable on and off peak. 

Concessions for total mobility card holders

In regards to total mobility card holders, it is worth asking, why is it excluding total mobility services? For total mobility card holders, total mobility is public transport. Not everyone has access to buses, its a lottery based on specific disability and access needs. Presently, with the half price discount, it costs approximately $10 to get into town with mobility services from a suburb like Karori, whereas the same trip on a bus costs less than $2.

However, not all total mobility card holders are best served by mobility services. In a lot of instances, catching the bus is easier, cheaper and more convenient. However, for those who cannot catch a bus, or for whom catching buses causes significant hardship, even danger and pain, affordable mobility services are essential. The cost of extending this discount to Total Mobility services does not outweigh the benefits. It’s a massive discount which really adds up.

People with disabilities are chronically underemployed and disproportionately on low incomes, already paying way more than other people for transport. Extending this discount to mobility services allows those who are not as able to catch the bus the same opportunity as everyone else to connect with their community, friends, see the doctor, patronise local businesses and seek education and employment. Isolation due to lack of transport means people with disabilities are not seen in the community, and are denied the lives everyone else takes for granted.

Every cent off can make this difference between seeing your Whānau once more in a month or not, or going to the supermarket or doctors or not. This also makes on peak discounts for diabled people make more sense, as disabled people need to access services on peak, just like everyone else, but are not always as well resourced or able to do so. A discount during on peak times would go a long way in remedying some of this inequity.

The nature of this discount, as we understand it, does not actually change anything for total mobility card holders at all. Because this proposed 35% off peak discount is not cumulatively added onto the existing 50% discount offered by GWRC, we cannot fathom a situation where someone eligible for the proposed 35% off peak discount actually receives it, as they will always receive the 50% discount instead. Therefore, we submit the proposed 35% off peak discount should be added cumulatively onto the 50% discount, or else it is completely pointless as nobody eligible will ever receive it. We would also like to seek clarity and reassurance that there is no risk of the proposed 35% off peak discount replacing the existing 50% discount, as that would be a regressive step backwards and leave disabled people worse off.

Other options for fare reductions for mobility services should be considered. Ideally total mobility services would be totally free, but if not it should at least be included in this existing discount, and other discounts such as the fare capping should also apply to mobility services. 

Massey at Wellington Students Association

Victoria University of Wellington Students Association

Generation Zero


Chaplaincy VUW 

Public Service Association


Parents for Climate Aotearoa


MP Queries Discount Pharmacy Model

Posted on

Wednesday 13 April 2022, 02:50 AM
2 minutes to Read

Labour MP Tracey McLellan intends to advance conversations with officials about script fees [Image: Supplied]

Pharmacy Today reporter Paulette Crowley finds some political interest in the practice of large pharmacies providing free prescriptions to consumers, as the practice impacts on the wider pharmacy sector.

The “predatory” business model used by discount pharmacy chains is being looked into by an MP
after being alerted to the issue by a fellow MP Australian-based Countdown and Chemist Warehouse, along with New Zealand-owned Bargain Chemist, absorb the $5 prescription co-payment charge, often to the detriment of surrounding independent pharmacies.
Tracey McLellan, the Labour MP for Banks Peninsula who sits on the Government’s health select committee, told Pharmacy Today she is talking to pharmacists about their concerns after Wigram MP Megan Woods alerted her to the issue.
Dr McLellan says she is aware of pharmacies being forced to close after discounters in their area
“Some pharmacists have also told me that the discounters are doing all of the easy scripts and
leaving all of the complicated ones for community pharmacists to do.
“It does seem like a predatory business model.”
14/04/2022, 15:57 MP queries discount pharmacy model | New Zealand Doctor
https://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/article/print-archive/mp-queries-discount-pharmacy-model 3/6
However, Chemist Warehouse chief executive Azman Haroon says his pharmacies fill all prescriptions presented in their stores.
“There may be times during an out-of-stock situation or a prescription item that may take longer
to source or prepare, that we offer the patient an option of coming back,
” he says in an email.
He adds that Chemist Warehouse pharmacies will continue to absorb the $5 co-payment to “make
healthcare more affordable and accessible for all Kiwis”.
Bargain Chemist director Atif Malkonyan says their pharmacists endeavour to fill every prescription,
unless raw ingredients are un-procurable. Then they would refer the prescription to another pharmacy
able to help.
“We do not pick and choose the easy ones, as every patient is important to us, ” he told Pharmacy Today
by email.

14/04/2022, 15:57 MP queries discount pharmacy model | New Zealand Doctor
https://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/article/print-archive/mp-queries-discount-pharmacy-model 4/6

All 39 Countdown Pharmacies offer “free prescriptions” after others in the market did this first, Jeremy Armes, Countdown’s merchandise manager – pharmacy told Pharmacy Today in an email.
Mr Armes says Countdown Pharmacies take contractual obligations under the Integrated Community Pharmacy Services Agreement very seriously and have never engaged in the “cherrypicking” practice. However, he adds, some dispensing decisions may come down to human nature.
“We wouldn’t condone the behaviour at Countdown Pharmacy, but some people will always be drawn to
completing easier tasks and let others complete the more difficult.”
Dr McLellan says, although she’s not working on anything specific to prompt government intervention on the co-payment issue, she intends to advance conversations with officials and continue to talk with community pharmacists.
“All change starts with a discussion.”

Cabinet minister Dr Woods alerted Dr McLellan to the discounters’ practices after asking Christchurch
pharmacist Des Bailey, president of the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, about it.
Mr Bailey says Dr Woods raised the discounter issue after asking about workforce burnout when she was
on a constituency visit to his pharmacy in late February.
The Selwyn Village Pharmacy owner says he welcomed the interest from a Cabinet minister and Dr McLellan, and hopes the issue will be picked up from a political angle, rather than a financial one.
The Commerce Commission told Pharmacy Today in 2019 that it didn’t consider the discounters had
predatory pricing as they didn’t have “substantial market power”. The body considered the practice of
free scripts to be greater competition, and wouldn’t look at the matter further, senior communications
adviser Christian Bonnevie said.

This followed Wellington pharmacists Angela Liu and Andrew Irvin complaining to the commission
about anti-competitive behaviour on the part of discounters.

Mr Bailey tells Pharmacy Today: “It sends an ambiguous signal to the consumers when somebody’s charging $5 and somebody’s not.”
“Really, the discounters are manipulating that co-payment to get you into the store to buy a whole
lot of other stuff. If we’re going to have one Health New Zealand and all the 20 DHB’s gone, it would
make sense that we’re all operating off the same platform.”
Mr Bailey adds the co-payment issue exacerbates inequity for people who don’t have access to free
prescriptions in their area.

Letter to Human Rights Commissioner

Posted on

Professor Paul Hunt
Chief Human Rights Commissioner

31 August 2021

Dear Professor Hunt,
Thank-you for the work the Human Rights Commission has done producing your ‘Framework
Guidelines on the right to a decent home in Aotearoa’ and the welcome announcement that there
will be a National Inquiry into housing referencing Article Three of The Treaty.
United Community Action Network (UCAN) is a Wellington-based community organisation that
works to raise the health and well being issues of marginalized communities and people to
enhance community health, wellness and quality of life for all people.

We have spent much of the last decade searching for a Crown agency willing to provide
substantive support for the housing element in our UCAN Health Charter (attached). The Charter
has been endorsed by over twenty significant organisations, representatives of the two parties in
government, and many people as individuals.
We share all the concerns you have outlined. We have found that, at least in the Wellington
Region, there has been no public agency willing to take responsibility for equal access to decent
housing for people with enduring mental illness. Health, housing, welfare and local authorities
have all referred us on to another organisation in a never ending circle. Your points about
accountability align exactly with our experience.

Over this period there have been a series of tragic events as a result of this systemic neglect. We
are directly involved in the inquest following the death of Kiaong Tan in 2016. We expect the
Coroner’s report to be completed soon and reveal very significant failures to provide ‘decent
homes’. Previous Coroners’ reports have criticised the same failings.
However we have been told that at present there are some attempts to reorient the health system
and address problems that have been revealed as support and services were withdrawn or limited
for people in these situations.

We are keen to meet with you to ensure that the National Inquiry into housing has a strong focus
on the housing needs for people with mental health needs and discuss how we can contribute to
the progressive realisation of decent homes for all, particularly for people with disabilities and
specifically for those with mental illness.
Yours sincerely,

Debbie Leyland

COVID-19 My Vaccine Pass system excludes many NZers

Posted on Updated on

Media release from UCAN – United Community Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand

Thursday 30 December 2021

Many people on limited incomes are excluded from the freedoms offered by the COVID-19 Vaccine Pass, says health rights lobby group UCAN – United Community Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand.

A major problem lies with the technology required to get a pass, says spokesperson Debbie Leyland.

UCAN is concerned about people living on income assistance, many of whom are older or have disabilities or mental health issues and would struggle with the COVID-19 website. Some of these people cannot afford to have much data on their phones, and others do not have a smartphone.

The printed pass and help from a pharmacy are among the solutions the Government offers for people who lack internet or can’t work out the vaccine pass system, but only pharmacies providing vaccinations can help people with the passes.

Ms Leyland says even these pharmacies can’t help if the person is homeless and doesn’t have an address.

People without money for transport are also disadvantaged in trying to get a vaccine pass.

UCAN calls on the Government to work with community organisations to open up more avenues of help for vaccinated people to get their vaccine passes. Without this, some people will continue to be marginalized, says Debbie Leyland.

UCAN spokesperson Debbie Leyland can be contacted for interview on 022 195 3178

About UCAN

The United Community Action Network (UCAN) is a collective of individuals and organisations working to implement the UCAN Health Charter.

Wellington to trial free public transport on weekends

Posted on Updated on

Joel MacManus14:54, Nov 25 2021 Stuff

Wellington will trial fare-free or heavily discounted public transport on weekends next March.

The one-month trial, which is likely to apply to all bus and train services in the region, will largely be to explore new fare structures.

The trial was approved by Greater Wellington Regional Council at a Transport Committee meeting on Thursday.

Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher said the trial would help to prepare for the national integrated ticketing project, a new smartcard for payment for all public transport being developed by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

“We want to test the resilience of the network if we suddenly have public transport that’s free on weekends…. are the travel patterns much different to what we currently see and if they are different, what are those patterns?” he said.

Metlink has already rolled out a number of new payment trials, including adding Snapper card payment to the Johnsonville rail line, and removing cash payments for some express bus services.

Gallacher said one possibility under national integrated ticketing would be a weekly capped fare – where, for example, any weekly trips over a certain number would be free.

“What we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, regular users of public transport hit the cap on Friday or Saturday which means any further travel is going to be free,” he said.

Gallacher’s Metlink team will come back to the council in February with more details of the trial, which he said may be expanded in some way to test other changes as well.

Both Greater Wellington and Wellington City Council have formally expressed support for the Aotearoa Collective for Public Transport Equity, which is calling for free public transport for students, under 25s and Community Services.

Regional councillor Thomas Nash said he was hoping the Government’s Budget in 2022 would include a boost for public transport, including a change to the farebox recovery ratio (the portion of the Metlink network operating costs covered by fares versus rates and taxes).

“This has got to be a partnership between central government and regional councils. Ideally, we would be moving towards less farebox recovery. Most successful, equitable and high mode shifts systems around the world have less than in New Zealand,” he said.

He was also interested in trialling free fares on specific bus routes, citing newly elected Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who took steps to make three major bus lines free on her first day in office.

“We could be looking at targeting free public transport on routes that are in areas where people are going to benefit more, lower socio-economic areas. We could be considering that for Waitangirua, Strathmore, or Naenae for example”.

The trial will be delivered under the National Ticketing Solution and jointly funded by the council and the transport agency.