It is not possible to fix everything in one Budget for nurses, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says.
Peters told NewstalkZB's Mike Hosking this morning nurses had not been getting a fair go.
"We can't fix it all in six months, we've had our first Budget, give us a chance," he said. "Next year we'll be able to do more, and the year after that, but we can't fix it up all right now.
"There is no one in the Government that doesn't understand that you've not had a fair go," he said.
Peters told Newshub the Government could possibly do better than the 9 per cent nurses had been offered.
"Could we do better? Possibly, but we've got to work our way through it. It's no good fighting with a megaphone and negotiating through the media," Peters said.
"We have to be fiscally responsible and we've got to ensure that we do manage the country properly while doing all these things that were neglected.
"We've still got to keep a surplus for a rainy day down the stream, which is almost inevitable," he said.
Nurses will issue strike notices after rejecting a new pay offer from district health boards. The $500 million pay offer includes a base rise of 9 per cent.
They plan to strike on July 5 and 9.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) chief executive Memo Musa said yesterday that strike notices would be issued within the next 48 hours but they were also urgently seeking mediation to resolve the issue.
DHB spokeswoman Helen Mason said they would go into the urgent mediation nurses wanted.
"The current offer on the table is an excellent offer, and it's about much more than base pay rates. DHBs are committed to safer staffing, which includes a commitment to an additional 500 nurses to alleviate staffing concerns."
Union industrial services manager Cee Payne said the revised offer was substantially improved, but there was concern over the variability of the pay increases.
The latest offer would see top level nurses get a 15.9 per cent raise over three years, but all other nurses would only get a 3 per cent raise a year over three years.
She said if strike action went ahead, NZNO was committed to providing life-preserving services during the action.
Health Minister David Clark said yesterday the offer was all that was being put on the table, and it was the most generous in a decade.
"Everyone agrees nurses should be paid more than they are now, but it takes more than one pay round to address nine years of neglect.
"We have a fiscal limit, and we've put out there the best offer we could put out there."
Clark said he hoped industrial action could be avoided but plans were in place if it went ahead.
"I can assure people that life-preserving services planning is well advanced. So we're preparing for the worst."
It was encouraging both sides had indicated mediation was still an option, he said.