The number of sunbed operators in Auckland has almost halved in the last four years, according to the Ministry of Health.

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said the first solaria survey carried out by the ministry revealed the decrease.

Mrs Goodhew said the public health unit staff visited 144 sunbed operators in the last six months of last year to provide information on safe practice and monitor compliance with key aspects of the solaria standard.

In central Auckland the number of sunbed operators had dropped from 73 to 39 since 2009.


In the MidCentral area the number has decreased from 41 operators to 26.

"Skin cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand and it's pleasing to hear some operators who are not meeting best practice have voluntarily chosen to stop providing commercial sunbed services," said Mrs Goodhew.

One of the reported reasons for operators no longer offering sunbed services was the difficulties complying with the standard.

The current voluntary standards for using sunbeds include client consent, no use for under 18-year-olds and exclusion of people with pale skin who always burn.

Surveys by Consumer New Zealand of sunbed operators has shown there is a high level of non-compliance.

National MP Paul Hutchinson has a bill in the members ballot that could ban teenagers and fair-skinned adults from using sunbeds.

It is supported by the Cancer Society and the national dermatologists body.

National MP Paul Hutchison's Health (Skin Cancer and Trauma Prevention) Amendment Bill would see enforced regulations on sunbeds and cosmetic lasers to prevent avoidable harm from ultraviolet radiation.

New Zealand has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world. In 2009 there was a total of 2212 melanoma registrations and 326 deaths.

About 300 New Zealanders die each year from malignant melanoma, and UV light from sunbeds is nearly three times as harmful as sun radiation, the Cancer Society said.

Sunbeds have been banned in New South Wales, and South Australia will ban them by 2015.

Health officials will be attending the Melanoma Summit in Wellington on April 5 to present the findings from the solaria survey.

The summit is expected to attract more than 200 participants, including pathologists, dermatologists, surgeons, oncologists and policy makers, Mrs Goodhew said.