The Government is under growing pressure to commit to its pre-election promise to establish an independent agency to tackle cancer.
Nearly a month has passed since Health Minister David Clark was due to announce the plan to combat New Zealand's biggest killer.
Advocates say people are dying because of the ongoing "unacceptable" delay.
Cancer kills around 9500 Kiwis a year. Failures in treatment have been laid bare in a series of Herald investigations.
They revealed that hundreds of cancer sufferers received large taxpayer-funded payouts after being let down by the public health system. More than $15 million has been paid out in the past five years after patients were misdiagnosed, or diagnosed too late.
Since April, the Herald has made more than a dozen requests to interview Clark about the Government's strategy for treating cancer and helping patients.
Each one has been ignored or declined. Reasons, given via a member of his communications team, include: "The minister will be talking about it in due course" and "the plan remains under consideration".
On Monday, the Herald asked the Minister, via email, what details were still under consideration, the reason for the delays, if he read the plan, if an agency had been ruled out as suggested by the Prime Minister earlier in the month, the number of Ministry of Health employed staff within the cancer advisory group, why it had taken six months to come up with a plan and if he could indicate when the plan would be announced.
Despite not directly answering each question, Clark said he expected the ministry to give him the interim cancer action plan by the end of June - and they did.
"This is the first substantial refresh of our national cancer action plan since it was put in place by the last Labour Government. It will build on the good work achieved since then," Clark said.
"A focus of the plan is to ensure consistency around national access to all services – prevention, treatment and management and to ensure this work is conducted under strong effective central leadership. I anticipate making an announcement on this soon.
"Given the importance of this work it requires careful consideration before it is released for consultation with the cancer-care sector and the public."
The Herald approached the Prime Minister for comment but she did not respond.
The Opposition's health leader Michael Woodhouse has slammed Clark for taking so long to produce its plan.
"He now calls it an 'interim plan' and there is no word on when it will be released or what consultation will be followed. Late and lazy is my description of their process," Woodhouse said.
The growing public pressure includes New Zealand's biggest ever cancer petition. More than 150,000 people have backed calls for an independent agency. The petition is being presented to Parliament tomorrow by Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, supported by Woodhouse.
The petition was started by Southland dad Blair Vining, who was told to wait eight weeks for an "urgent appointment" with an oncologist after being diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.
"The agency needs to have independent funding, be free from political interference, and set clear targets that Government and DHBs are accountable for," Vining said.
Cancer advocacy groups echoed his calls, with Bowel Cancer New Zealand spokeswoman Mary Bradley adding "it's outrageous the minister keeps delaying".
Bradley told the Herald it wasn't acceptable that New Zealanders were dying while waiting for the Government to act.
"They have had more than enough time to review [the cancer plan] and if I'm honest it feels like a calculated plan by the minister to back away from the hype around Blair's petition," Bradley said.
"We are the ones seeing people die all the time. We hear stories like Blair's every day and we know the failures that are happening yet we've had no communication from the Government while they make their plan.
"I think that the Government are that much removed because they are not hearing these frontline stories like we are."
Breast Cancer Foundation research manager Adele Gautier said establishing a national cancer agency would be a great step forward and a plan was needed urgently.
"We desperately need a national standard. We need to make much better use of national data around treatment and outcomes. I think there is resistance towards comparisons regionally but we have to be brave and prepared to look at those," Gautier said.
Though National will be taking the lead with the petition, Woodhouse told the Herald the party remained neutral about an independent agency and were open to seeing what the Government comes up with.
Cancer Society of New Zealand medical director and Dunedin oncologist Chris Jackson said a cancer plan was a hugely significant piece of work that would affect thousands of Kiwis.
"We prefer that it is done right rather than rushed. We have had significant input into the development of the document at many stages and the minister and ministry have taken on board many changes in response to input," Jackson said.
After the petition is handed over to Parliament it will be sent to Clark's office for review before being put forward to the health select committee to gather submissions.
Woodhouse is hopeful it will be reviewed by the end of the year.
Father-of-two Blair Vining was told he had to wait eight weeks for an "urgent appointment" with an oncologist after being diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.
Now, the rugby fanatic dad, coach and community hero has been told he has only months to live.
He said this year that he had been paying about $35,000 a month to extend his life while both he and his wife, Melissa, have had to stop working.
That sum includes paying for medication that was not funded, and due to a loophole in their private health insurance could not be covered, as well as travel and accommodation to get treatment three hours' drive away because it was not available in their home town, Winton.
Melissa said the saddest thing was she thought they were the exception and had somehow slipped through the cracks of the system.
"I then shared our story on social media and [we] were contacted by dozens of families going through the same experience."
She said her husband's deadly cancer couldn't have been detected earlier because he was well below the public screening age of 60.
Part of Blair's bucket list was to help change the system.
"People try to opt for help and can't access that help which is just so wrong," Melissa told the Herald.
New Zealand's history of tackling cancer:
1999 - Labour Government announces plans are underway for first ever cancer plan.
2003 - Cancer control strategy released included cancer prevention, screening, early detection, treatment, rehabilitation, support and palliative care.
2005 - Labour Government establishes national agency known as Cancer Control Council, formally Cancer Control of New Zealand, to provide independent advise free from political interference.
2015 - National Party-led Government disestablishes Cancer Control Council.
July 2017 - Pre-election, Labour promises $10 million to establish the agency and a further $10m to get work under way.
Jan 31, 2019 - Blair Vining's wife Melissa slams Health Minister David Clark for not following through on promise to establish cancer agency.
- Health Minister David Clark announces the Government's plan to tackle cancer
is underway and he expected to see a draft by the end of June.
May 6, 2019 - Herald starts investigation revealing hundreds of Kiwi cancer sufferers have received large taxpayer-funded payouts after being let down by the public health system.
June 28, 2019 - Blair Vining launches petition calling for a national cancer agency to hold District Health Boards to account and improve the health care system.
June 29, 2019 - Herald reveals Prime Minister's letter to Blair's daughter Lilly Vining suggesting agency is not part of the Government's plan.
-More than 650 New Zealanders gathered in Invercargill to join Vining as he handed over a petition to National's Michael Woodhouse.
July 7, 2019 - Blair's petition closes to the public.