Write to your MP, the Minister of Health and PHARMAC

A letter to MPs, Ministers and PHARMAC is an effective way of letting decision makers know what is important to their constituents and it is an essential element of a working democracy. 

Remember that MPs are interested in the needs of their community. Your letters describing your story is worth your effort.

Tips for Writing Letters
The Address
All MPs have two addresses. The Parliament address and their electoral office. The parliamentary website can help find your MP’s contact details.

www.govt.nz/browse/engaging-with-government/members-of-parliament/
Ask them to pass on the letter to the appropriate Minister. This way your letter passes two sets of hands and is more effective.
Formatting and Content

  • When writing to your local MP, identify yourself as a voter by including your address. All politicians are likely to pay most attention to people who might or might not vote for them.
  • State the topic clearly include a subject line at the beginning of your letter.
  • Start by stating the issue and what you want done about it. For eg “I am writing to urge your support for the funding of more medicines for Lung Cancer patients….”
  • Focus on two or three main points that support your view.
  • Use examples as evidence and tell your story. This is more effective than attempting to address many points in a letter.
  • Conclude by requesting a specific action such as: writing a response back to you, organising a meeting with you, taking concrete action on the issue i.e. talking with the Minister of Health, raising the issue with their party etc.
  • Sign off with a salutation, e.g. regards, yours sincerely, thank you.

Other Important Tips for Writing Letters

  • Keep it brief. Letters should be no longer than one page and should be about one issue only.
  • Long letters are likely to be put aside to read on a less busy day and that day may never come.
  • Use your own words. An original letter sent by one single person is more effective than a form letter (or cut and pasted texts) sent by dozens of people.
  • Include a personal story or information on how the issue affects you, your family, your business, or people around you. This can help your representative understand your position. It can be very persuasive as they form a position on an issue.
  • The more personal your letter, the more impact it is likely to have. Use formal language but remember you are expressing your point of view, so phrases like ‘I feel’ and ‘I want to see’ are good to include.
  • Personalise your relationship. If you have ever voted for the representative, or contributed time or money to their election campaign, or have met them, say so.
  • The closer your representative feels to you, the more effective your letter is likely to be.
  • Be polite. Be courteous but don’t be afraid to take a firm position. While your representative’s job is to represent you, remember that politicians and their staff are people too.
  • Threats, hostile remarks and rude/offensive language don’t work. They alienate people who could otherwise support your position.
  • Your representative could be in elected office for decades. They might be promoted to higher, more influential, office within their party.
  • Write thank you letters to politicians that support your position. This will encourage them to stand firm on their position rather than backing down.
    And if all this feels just too much, then you can copy and paste from the example we have created.
    Handwrite, or type and sign, your letter. A handwritten, or typed and signed, letter is far more effective than photocopied form letters, postcard campaigns or emails. Personalise your letter.

Example letter

[Your Name]

[123 Your Street]

[Your City]

[Your postcode]

[Your email @example.com]

[Day] September 20XX

[Insert MP name]

Freepost Parliament

Private Bag 18 888

Parliament Buildings

Wellington 6160

Or

Local Electorate Office Address

Dear [Insert MP name],

New Zealand lung cancer patients are dying without access to effective treatments.
Over 1800 patients die each year, that is around 35 patients per week and 5 patients
per day. Lung cancer kills more people than melanoma, breast and prostate cancer deaths combined.

In April, PHARMAC was about to issue a proposal for funding an immunotherapy treatment, which is standard of care for lung cancer in many countries. Unfortunately, it was put on hold due to COVID-19. I acknowledge these are challenging time and taxpayer money is being spent on a wide variety of measures, but it is hard to understand how the Government can justify spending $75 million on horse racing, which is more than would be required to help patients with New Zealand’s deadliest cancer.

New medicines like [Insert medicine name] for lung cancer are funded in other countries for lung cancer and are extending patients’ lives, New Zealand is not one of those countries.

I urge you to support the funding of [Insert medicine name] for people affected by lung cancer.

I am one of those New Zealanders who….

I was diagnosed with…..

At this point, I am…..

I urge you and your party to ask PHARMAC to proceed with its lung funding proposal so that New Zealand patients can access modern medicines like the rest of the world. After all, lung cancer kills more people than melanoma, breast and prostate combined and yet patients are being left to die

Yours sincerely,

[Your Signature]

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