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Cancer Society calls on politicians to prioritise cancer care

The Cancer Society of New Zealand has released its official manifesto, posing 12 key asks to decision-makers ahead of this year’s election.

These “asks” fall under four key areas:

  • investment in prevention – so more New Zealanders live cancer free lives;
  • early detection and diagnosis of cancer – so more lives are saved;
  • timely and accessible cancer care services – so all New Zealanders receive the cancer treatment they need; and
  • cancer care and support closer to home – so all New Zealanders receive the cancer support they need.

Cancer Society National Chief Executive Dr Rachael Hart says cancer is a significant issue for the health system and one that touches everyone. 

“Cancer care should not be based on where we live, and there is no reason that our cancer outcomes should be so much worse than Australia’s. As a country, we need to do more. It is time for our political leaders to take bold action against cancer.” 

Dr Hart says the organisation’s number one priority is reform of the National Travel Assistance Scheme (NTA).  

The NTA scheme was set up in 2005 to provide critical support for people who needed to travel long distances or travel frequently for treatment. The current scheme was reviewed by the Ministry of Health in 2018 and was found to be underfunded, too complicated and creating inequities for those who need it most. Despite clear recommendations at that time, no changes have been made. And the gap in provision is growing wider. 

“As a result, we continue to see people with cancer in our most disadvantaged communities struggling to meet costs and some simply not making it to vital treatment,” says Dr Hart. 

“Due to the changes to the health system, more people with cancer are travelling across the country for treatment and being impacted by this. To put it bluntly, the health reforms will not deliver the intended outcomes if the next government doesn't solve the travel issue.” 

Recent media attention on this issue has prompted Te Whatu Ora to schedule work to address current inadequacies in this scheme, with improvements planned for 2024.  

“We need to see fast and concrete progress as it is long overdue. We are calling for cross-party commitment to ensure this significant piece of work is adequately funded and implemented in 2024,” says Dr Hart.   

Cancer Society Medical Director Dr Kate Gregory says the Cancer Society hopes politicians will also commit to investing in cancer prevention and early detection.  

"About 25,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with cancer every year, yet we know up to half of these are preventable” says Dr Gregory. “The biggest difference we can make to save lives and reduce health system costs is to stop people from getting cancer in the first place. That’s why we are asking the Government to commit to our world leading Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan, reforming our alcohol laws and ensuring all tamariki receive their HPV vaccinations."

For those cancer cases we can’t prevent, we need to act to detect cancer sooner, says Dr Gregory. 

“New Zealand falls far behind comparative countries when it comes to the early detection of cancer.  Recommended age changes to breast and bowel screening must happen now, a trial screening project is needed for prostate cancer and a national lung screening programme is desperately needed to turn the tide on one of our biggest killers – lung cancer. Focussing on detecting cancers early can reduce demands on an already stretched health system, make significant inroads in addressing cancer inequities and save thousands of lives a year.” 

You can read the full Cancer Society Manifesto at: 



For more information please contact: 
Maria De Cort  
Senior Communications Advisor, Cancer Society of New Zealand 
021 991 952  

About the Cancer Society of New Zealand 
The Cancer Society of New Zealand is the country's leading organisation dedicated to reducing the incidence of cancer and ensuring the best cancer care for New Zealanders. We are committed to working with communities and decision makers by providing leadership and advocacy in cancer control, with core services in information and support, research and cancer prevention.  

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