Tēnā koutou rangatira mā.
Climate Karanga Marlborough comprises a group of over 100 different people all of whom have come through their own personal journey to a realisation of the real threat of climate breakdown, that we all now face and that we seek to bring to the attention of our fellow Malburians. We work with the Marlborough District Council, we publish articles, give talks and provide a social support network. Many of our members, through their personal and professional lives, have had experience of how people’s mental health and wellbeing may be drastically affected by changes in our environments.
Our submission is that the establishment of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission
1. specifically includes within the Commission’s purview and its functions attention to the significant impact on mental health and wellbeing of climate change, particularly those functions listed in Clause 11;
2. requires the Commission, in its task to promote alignment, collaboration and communication amongst contributors to New Zealanders’ mental health and wellbeing, to work closely with the Climate Change Commission and other contributors to managing climate change;
3. requires specifying that the membership of the Board collectively have knowledge, understanding and experience of the effects of climate on our land and its people.
CKM wish to present our submission in person at the Select Committee hearings.
The Mental Health and Wellbeing (MHWB) Commission (hereinafter The Commission).
We affirm the spirit and the intention in establishing The Commission, and we affirm its stated objectives, functions and powers as an independent body.
We applaud the cross-party involvement in drafting the MHWB Commission Bill (hereinafter The Bill), although we regret that despite 6 National Party members declaring their support for The Bill in its first reading, the National Party appears to have chosen to veto the Bill along party lines on a point of timing that surely the Select Committee might be allowed to have some leeway to adjust depending on their progress.
We acknowledge how those who have drafted The Bill have held to the findings of the He Ara Oranga Report, particularly expanding access, facilitating co-design, taking a whole-of-government approach to wellbeing, prevention and social determinants, and facilitating health promotion and prevention. However, we are disappointed that neither the He Ara Oranga Report nor the first draft of The Bill mentions how climate change has a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. That it does so has been confirmed in the Royal Society’s report in 2017 on Human Health Impacts of Climate Change for New Zealand, in various reports by the Ministry for the Environment, by the Climate Change Commission and in numerous articles in the international health literature.
We welcome the positive approach that the Climate Change Commission has taken in recognising New Zealanders’ responsibilities in managing climate change and in supporting their endeavours to that end. With that in mind, we urge the Select Committee to highlight in the second reading of The Bill the importance of The (MHWB) Commission collaborating with the Climate Change Commission to promote an understanding of how climate change affects people’s mental health and wellbeing and how these effects may be managed for greater wellbeing, and so to prevent further ill health.
Mental health, including ill-health, and wellbeing services.
We welcome the emphasis in The Bill on providing an overview of services promoting wellbeing, not only services ‘treating and managing’ illness. But we welcome too the recognition of the social determinants of illness, to which we would add environmental determinants, as well as the biological determinants. Also, we recognise how poverty and social and economic disadvantage interplay with mental illness and distress, a fact widely recognised in the mental health and sociological literatures. So, we see that there is a great opportunity for The Commission to take a wider approach to mental health than the so-called social investment approach which targets services to key groups, and thereby discriminates them. Almost inevitably, such an approach tends to stigmatise those groups, such as ‘the mentally ill, the disabled, the elderly, vulnerable children and Māori’. Rather The Bill aims to improve equity for communities ‘that experience poorer mental health and wellbeing outcomes’.
We support the requirement that the members of The Commission collectively have knowledge, understanding and experience of Te Ao Māori. The Māori people know what it is to belong to the land, rather than vice versa, and have long experience of what it is to become dispossessed and displaced, and so to grieve. To us this is key, as these will be the effects on all of us, our health and our wellbeing, inseparably both physical and mental, if we do not anticipate and deal with the threats of climate change.
We therefore ask that The Bill be amended to ensure the work of the MWHB Commission