Our History


The Society had its beginnings as a nurses’ action committee in the 1970s. We underwent several name changes in the very early years, adopting the current name in 1977.

The formation of the Society came about because of widespread dissatisfaction of nurses with the service provided by existing organisations.  

Upon formation, the Society became immediately involved in the big issues of the period including understaffing, nursing-education reforms, health sector underfunding and anachronistic employment policies. The Society also campaigned on a wide range of health, professional and social policy matters.   

The Society quickly gained a reputation for robust and creative advocacy, plus high-public-profile and savvy lobbying. Frequently labelled as ‘stirrers’.    

The Society played a significant role in overturning the damaging ‘health reforms’ of the 1990s, with some success.   

In 1994 we established an international placement programme to help new graduates obtain employment. This initiative was developed because of the shortage of new graduate placements across all DHBs. Consequently, over a 15-year period we placed large numbers of new graduates overseas. This involved organising registration, exams and travel, taking new graduates to the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore.    

By popular demand, the programme quickly morphed into a full-service, international, recruitment operation, initially to include experienced nurses and then doctors and allied health professionals. This service now operates as NSNZ Recruitment. Members have premium access to NSNZ Recruitment.

For two decades, we published a journal, New Zealand Nursing Forum. While this publication was a success, commercially and professionally, we ceased its publication to divert staff resources to other Society activities. The journal was initially a monthly and then bi-monthly.  Here is a sample cover

In 2000, to comply with employment law changes, the Society set up a number of site unions to use for negotiating collective employment agreements. Some of these unions remain.

More recently, we established Te Uniana o NSNZ as our main registered union arm. Unlike our site unions, Te Uniana o NSNZ can operate across all parts of the health service as necessary. All (eligible) Society members are automatically members of Te Uniana o NSNZ.

Like any successful organisation, business or service, the Society has evolved over time to match changing needs and circumstances. Hence our activities, focus, services and methods have changed as necessary. At times, the Society had a high media and public profile, with the focus being on major campaigns. At other times, the emphasis has been on providing best-possible services and one-on-one assistance to members. 

Regardless, the mission and core business have remained unchanged – delivering effective services and advocacy for nurses – individually and collectively.