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'It's at breaking point' - nurses begin protest action

A group of nurses took to the streets of Wellington today to rally public support for their 'health-needs-nursing' campaign to raise wages.

They said they were tired of working in a system that had been chronically underfunded for ten years.

Last month, a proposed pay deal was rejected by 27,000 nurses and midwives employed by district health boards.

Now the nurses have taken their fight to the streets.

New Zealand Nurses Association spokesperson Cee Payne said nurses deserved more than what they were receiving.

"Nurses are the backbone of the health workforce and they are feeling undervalued," she said.

"It's at breaking point and we need something done about both the issues of pay for nurses and safe staffing levels."

She said public response to the protests had been overwhelmingly positive.

"We've been out here in front of the Wellington Railway Station and it's been very exciting connecting with the public and telling them about our concerns," she said.

"So far we've handed out about 1000 leaflets and we've been getting lots of toots on the street this morning to really emphasise that health needs nursing."

The rally is the first of five taking place throughout the country this week.

Ms Payne said if the protests were ignored, the association would consider taking official industrial action.

But for now, she said it was important to get their message heard by the public.

"There's been a decade of severe underfunding and it's really hurting our nurses."

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