Blair Vining's "tireless advocacy" for the establishment of the new independent Cancer Control Agency was recognised by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at its formal opening on Tuesday.

The late father-of-two drove a public movement calling for a national cancer agency to end postcode lottery care this year, as he was dying of bowel cancer.

On September 1, he told The Herald his final wish had been ticked off his bucket list when Ardern unveiled the Government's plans to establish the agency in early December.

"You don't get everything you wish for at Christmas but this is a real step forward into making change so this is really positive," Vining told the Herald at the time.


Mere months later, the cancer agency has opened with an acknowledgement of Vining's efforts.

"I want to acknowledge those who've worked so hard to ensure better cancer care in New Zealand, especially Blair Vining whose tireless advocacy for the establishment of this agency has left an important legacy," Ardern said.

"Today's official opening marks the start of a new era for cancer care in New Zealand. The Cancer Control Agency will play a critical role in ensuring all New Zealanders get world-class cancer care, no matter who they are or where they live."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to Blair Vining and his wife Melissa in September about the announcement of a new national cancer agency. Photo / File
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to Blair Vining and his wife Melissa in September about the announcement of a new national cancer agency. Photo / File

The agency will play a "big part" in helping to turn around the long-term challenge of improving cancer survival rates, Ardern said.

"Modernising our approach to cancer won't happen overnight, but with strong leadership from the Agency and a greater focus on prevention, screening and treatment we're well placed to make progress."

The lineup of the advisory council supporting the agency was also announced, with Professor Diana Sarfati appointed as interim Chief Executive to lead the agency.

Health Minister Dr David Clark said recruitment was underway to bring the agency's staff up to around 40 people full time.

"Professor Sarfati and her team will be supported by an Advisory Council made up of leading clinicians, experts and consumer representatives."


"The calibre of the people who have agreed to be members of the Council speaks for itself, and shows just how committed the entire health sector is to making progress on cancer," Clark said.

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Among those on the council is Vining's oncologist Dr Chris Jackson, who is also the medical director of the Cancer Society and a senior lecturer at the University of Otago.

The council also includes Dr Nina Scott, Dr Richard Sullivan, Graeme Norton, Ailsa Claire, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Shelly Campbell and Professor David Tipene-Leach.

"It will take time to put an end to the postcode lottery for cancer care – but we now have a 10-year plan and the Agency in place to drive better, fairer care for all," Clark said.

Nearly 400 submissions were received from individuals and organisations in the now-completed consultation on the Cancer Action Plan.

The final plan is due to be released early next year.