NZ nurses protesting over pay and conditions in 2021.
NZ nurses protesting over pay and conditions in 2021. Image by Ben McKay/AAP PHOTOS

Health minister wrong on nurses’ pay comparison

David Williams May 23, 2023

Nurses in New Zealand receive the same base salary as their counterparts in Australia.


False. Nurses in every Australian state and territory receive a higher base salary.

New Zealand Health Minister Ayesha Verrall has claimed nurses in New Zealand and Australia receive the same base salaries.

This is false. Nurses in all Australian states and territories receive higher base salaries. The difference is between $4226 ($NZ4450) and $17,166 ($NZ18,145) for first-year registered nurses, depending on location.

The original claim was made in a tweet (archived) on April 22, 2023, in which Dr Verrall said: “As of this month nurses here and in Australia receive the same base salaries”.

Dr. Ayesha Verrall in her office in Wellington in December 2021.
 Dr Ayesha Verrall in her office in Wellington in December 2021. 

NZ’s 1News also reported that Dr Verrall repeated the claim in a radio interview. 

The health minister made the claim after announcing interim equity payments for nurses , which she said would deliver pay increases that provide “salaries competitive with Australia”.

Dr Verrall said her figures came from Te Whatu Ora (Health New Zealand) and that she was advised base rates were comparable to nurses in Queensland – the highest-paying state in Australia.

“However this advice was not correct and should have been updated,” she told AAP FactCheck in a statement. 

A similar claim features on the Te Whatu Ora website. In a December 14, 2022,  press release, Te Whatu Ora chief executive Fepulea’i Margie Apa also said: “In the first quarter next year our nurses will be on par dollar for dollar with their Australian counterparts.” 

But the claims are false.

According to Te Whatu Ora, NZ graduate registered nurses receive an annual salary of $NZ66,570 ($62,901). 

According to salary data provided to AAP FactCheck by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the lowest-paid first-year nurses in Australia are in NSW with an annual salary of $67,127 ($NZ71,020). The highest salary is in Queensland, where first-year nurses are paid $80,067 ($NZ84,715) per year.

Therefore the minimum difference in base salary between nurses in NZ and Australia is $4226 ($NZ4450) and the maximum is $17,166 ($NZ18,145).

First-year nurses in all Australian states and territories are paid more than their NZ counterparts, according to the national nursing union's Nurses and Midwives Paycheck publication.

ACT nurses get $72,466 ($NZ76,668), in the Northern Territory they get $71,441 ($NZ75,587), in South Australia their salary is $70,310 ($NZ74,390), nurses in Tasmania are paid $69,831 ($NZ73,885), in Western Australia it's $72,592 ($NZ76,806) and in Victoria they get $67,527 ($NZ71,446).

It is a similar picture when you look at the base salaries of more senior nurses. According to Te Whatu Ora data, step 4 registered nurses in NZ receive an annual salary of $NZ80,883 ($76,432).

In comparison, year 4, grade 4, or level 4 nurses in Australia receive $78,338 ($NZ82,888) in NSW,  $91,367 ($NZ96,682) in Queensland, $82,063 ($NZ 86,833) in the ACT,  $82,980 ($NZ 87,807) in the Northern Territory, $78,849 ($NZ83,431) in South Australia, $79,039 ($NZ 83,632) in Tasmania, $80,772 ($NZ 85,469) in Western Australia and $79,212 ($NZ 83,826) in Victoria.

Kaitiaki Nursing New Zealand, the official journal of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, also published an investigation into the claim NZ nurses' base rates were "on par" with Australian colleagues, which found it did not stand up to scrutiny.

* Exchange rate calculations correct as of May 23, 2023.

The Verdict

The claim nurses in New Zealand receive the same base salary as their counterparts in Australia is false.

Nurses in every state and territory in Australia are paid a higher base salary than nurses in NZ.

First-year nurses in Australia receive between an additional $4202 ($NZ4450) to $17,135 ($NZ18,145), while level four nurses get between $1906 ($NZ2005) and $14,935 ($NZ15,799) extra.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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