About 30,000 nurses, midwives and other health workers took to the streets today in a nationwide eight hour strike to protest their pay and working conditions.
The strike began at 11am and disrupted surgery, health services and Covid-19 vaccination centres.
Negotiations between the union, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), and district health boards (DHBs) stalled after the nurses on Monday rejected a second pay offer in their current round of negotiations.
Thousands of people marched down Queen Street in Auckland with nurses shouting "freezing wages is outrageous".
Nurses said that after a year of keeping the public safe from Covid-19 they were gutted at the government's public service pay freeze.
In Wellington, crowds of nurses were joined by members of the public as they marched from the hospital to Civic Square and then on to Parliament.
At Parliament, Health Minister Andrew Little spoke to the crowd but struggled to speak over boos and heckling. He told the crowd that he agreed the health system was long overdue for improvements that looked after its workers.
Waikato nurses marched from the hospital into the centre of Hamilton and received a huge amount of support from motorists tooting, according to RNZ's reporter who was at the scene.
A Rotorua nurse at the protest there said they were going home exhausted after a shift and were burned out.
Nurses protesting in Christchurch said they were worried that current staffing levels were not safe and they were not able to provide the level of care they would like to patients.
Hospitals around the country have been busy all day with all but a handful at close to maximum capacity.
The national contingency planner for district health boards Anne Aitcheson told Checkpoint hospitals tried to reduce capacity but it was a busy day.
She said it would take months to catch up on the backlog of rescheduled appointments and surgery.
Wairarapa District Health Board said it hoped to get back around the table with nurses after the strike was over.
Chief executive Dale Oliff said they had been working hard to ease staffing pressures, including employing 3000 extra nurses and midwives in the past three years with a plan to bring on more.
She said their pay offer to the nurses was a good one, especially for those on a low rate, and they hoped when negotiations resumed they could get a better understanding of what nurses wanted.