Thousands of nurses around the country are marching and rallying today for better working conditions and pay.

The Wellington group are marching to Parliament this afternoon to present a petition that has gained more than 30,000 signatures.

Hundreds gathered outside Parliament for the rally, chanting slogans such as "we need more on the floor" and "what do we want? Safe staffing. When do we want it? Now".

The march, held in unison with International Nurses Day, is the climax of a Facebook page called "New Zealand, please hear our voice" that was started by two anonymous nurses in March.

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Members of the group, along with other supporters, joined in rallies all over New Zealand.

Nurses and supporters gather at Parliament today. Photo / Melissa Nightingale
Nurses and supporters gather at Parliament today. Photo / Melissa Nightingale

Marches took place in Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Whanganui, Hastings, Gisborne, Nelson, Hamilton, Dunedin and Whangārei.

Chronic understaffing, under-resourcing, missed breaks, unpaid overtime, and unfair wages were just a few of the frustrations echoed in the Facebook group.

Today's marches follow numerous other rallies that have been held around the country over the past couple of months.

Organiser of Wellington's march, Zari Diedrichs-Farnan, read a statement from the two anonymous nurses who started the Facebook page.

"Now is the time for change, New Zealand," the statement read.

"Our calls for change have been ignored . . . where can New Zealand nurses go when we are shrugged off?

"How can we hold the hand of the dying, spend time comforting those facing new diagnoses, reassure their loved ones they're in the best hands, when some shifts we're only able to do the bare minimum?"

Understaffing forced nurses to view their patients as a checklist, rather than a person, it said.

Auckland Nurses were joined by colleagues across the country in a mass march. Photo / Greg Bowker
Auckland Nurses were joined by colleagues across the country in a mass march. Photo / Greg Bowker

Wellington nurse Ryan Teahan gave a speech at the rally, saying he had about 20 years of experience in "nearly everything nursing".

Nursing needed to be considered a profession, rather than a vocation, and the pay should reflect that, he said.

New nurses used to be paid the same as new police officers, but now nursing graduates started on about $49,000, while police, whose training is paid for, start on about $57,000, he said.

"New Zealand needs to get ready to prepare for our collective roar."

Teahan called for nurses to get extra pay for having a masters degree, needed to have days set aside for maintaining professional standards, and safe staffing levels.

"New Zealand has the money to pay for us and their health, and the rich are getting richer and the poor to rich gap, wider."

Kirsten Pelayo is joined with her sister Kristiana and brother Ethan during the march for their dad Emmanuel. Photo / Greg Bowker
Kirsten Pelayo is joined with her sister Kristiana and brother Ethan during the march for their dad Emmanuel. Photo / Greg Bowker

Another nurse, Becky, said she was paid $32 an hour, which was the top of her pay grade.

"I don't think $32 an hour recognises my skills and my training," she said.

"We carry immense responsibility in an extremely challenging environment. Nurses are leaving the profession in droves, due to exhaustion, burn out, and psychological stress. We're at breaking point. We're sick and tired of working at breaking point and we're quite frankly insulted by a 2 per cent increase in pay."

Alice Gilberd said she had just finished her final nursing shift in the Whanganui Hospital emergency department.

"I am burnt out . . . I cannot do it anymore."

Gilberd said patient safety was threatened every day they did not have extra staff.

Auckland nurses marched in the rain.Photo / Greg Bowker
Auckland nurses marched in the rain.Photo / Greg Bowker

Australia introduced nurse to patient ratios 18 years ago, and New Zealand needed to do the same, she said.

"We don't have to trial this, Australia already has the data."

A mental health nurse who has worked in her field for 43 years also spoke, saying she was paid the same as somebody who had five years experience.

"It's a bit sad that things have got to the state they're in," she said.

A nursing student also got up to speak, saying she knew she had to make the most of her ability to spend time with patients as a student, as she might not get the chance when she was working.

"We are worth so much more and I'm so excited to get into this profession, but I hope it's safer when I do."

National MP Lawrence Yule accepted the petition and said he would present it to Parliament on Tuesday.