ACC's inability to help mentally injured survivors of the Christchurch mosque shootings is a painful example of why the system needs to change, the Green Party says.

A number of witnesses to the March attack have been unable to get help from the Accident Compensation Corporation because under current rules it can only cover mental injuries if they are sustained at work or the result of physical harm.

Yama Nabi, who lost his father at the Masjid Al Noor, was one of the first people to arrive at the harrowing scene after the shooting.

Despite seeing dead bodies and wounded children, he had his ACC claim rejected.

Advertisement

Nabi said he had just wanted time to recover and look after his children.

"I've been working since I was 19 years old. I've paid my tax. They said 'Work and Income is going to help you', but Work and Income just act like they want you to go back to work as soon as possible," he said.

"I just wanted time to give the kids a bit of love."

Spotting the gap in the service immediately after the attack, ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway sought advice about how to extend coverage to those affected.

But Cabinet papers released this month show the Government rejected changing the scheme, in favour of providing help through the Ministry of Social Development.

Green Party MP Jan Logie says ACC isn't living up to its promises when it comes to mental health. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Green Party MP Jan Logie says ACC isn't living up to its promises when it comes to mental health. Photo / Lewis Gardner

The Green Party's ACC spokeswoman, Jan Logie, is calling for the system to be altered to treat all injuries the same.

"The lack of mental health cover for some victims of the mosque terror attacks is a painful articulation of how ACC cover isn't working as it should," she said.

"Across the board, New Zealanders who have mental injuries and need support can't get ACC cover unless it fits within tight and unfair definitions."

Unless the policy covered those mentally injured away from work, it wasn't living up to its promises, Logie said.

"In fact, in some instances we know that mental trauma can run deeper than a physical injury and cause more ongoing problems.

Advice to the Government from officials said, with about 200 people witnessing the shooting and hundreds more indirectly affected, a special extension tied to the event could have cost up to $35 million.

In a statement, Lees-Galloway said fairness had been a deciding factor in not expanding the scheme to Christchurch victims.

ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says not making an exception for Christchurch survivors was a matter of fairness. Photo / Mark Mitchell
ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says not making an exception for Christchurch survivors was a matter of fairness. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"It was important to consider the fairness for others who aren't eligible for ACC coverage when deciding the best way to help more of the March 15 victims," he said.

"What the victims and the families have been through is tragic and this package [from MSD] is ensuring more of them get help."

Nabi said he had since returned to work and felt he had been left to look after himself and his family.

"The gun laws happened, they were quick, but this one here ... People are living their normal lives now, but they still hurt inside, my children are hurt inside. They cry, " he said.

"It's easy for [politicians] to come over and say: 'We'll support you and we'll do this and we'll do that'. But later on down the track it's: 'Oh nah, don't worry about it'."