Public health workforce development in New Zealand

Until recently, New Zealand hasn’t had a national public health workforce development strategy to develop the public health workforce.

A wide range of workforce development initiatives have been occurring across the public health sector to address the identified workforce issues, but they have not been systematically co-ordinated or connected. 

In 2003, the Ministry of Health commenced work to lead and participate in the development of the public health workforce and to strengthen public health job skills in the wider health workforce.


The objective was to develop a national approach to public health workforce development in New Zealand.

Te Uru Kahikatea

Te Uru Kahikatea: The Public Health Workforce Development Plan (2007–2016) (TUK), was developed to provide an integrated strategic framework to guide and direct public health workforce development in New Zealand. 

The TUK vision

The New Zealand vision for public health workforce development is that inequalities will be reduced and the health of all peoples in New Zealand will be improved through public health and societal strategies that are:
  • Delivered by a properly configured, responsive, well-trained and competent (including culturally competent) workforce - working in both in public health and non-public health employment
  • Strengthened with core public health skills and knowledge
  • Supported by infrastructure and workplaces that actively encourage and develop the public health workforce.   

Ministry of Health, 2007: Te Uru Kahikatea: The Public Health Workforce Development Plan 

Te Uru Kahikatea Workplan 2012-2014

Te Uru Kahikatea Workplan 2010-2011

Te Uru Kahikatea Workplan 2009

TUK Progresss Report 2009
TUK Progress Report 2010 - PDF

TUK Progress Report 2010 - Word


The TUK approach

TUK provides an opportunity for innovation and expansion in the way we think about public health workforce development. It proposes incremental change to:

The workforce development focus

A particular focus for workforce development in New Zealand is to strengthen the public health workforce working in organisations funded to deliver public health services to their communities. However, the wider health workforce plays an increasingly important role in community health outcomes for the population of New Zealand.  
Workforce development action through the implementation of Te Uru Kahikatea: The Public Health Workforce Development Plan (2007) (TUK) will strengthen the wider public health workforce by:
  • Considering the public health workforce development needs of the wider health and other sectors’ workforces in all TUK actions
  • Where possible, widening the scope of TUK actions to encompass the wider public health workforce working in other health jobs, in areas such as training opportunities, access to public health career pathways, etc
  • Developing combined initiatives with other sectors or parts of the health sector;
For example, working with:
  • District Health Boards to address the workforce needs of those who work across public and personal health (e.g., Public Health Nurses, Maori workforces, Primary Health Organisations workforces and Pacific workforces)
  • Local authorities to identify training and development opportunities for environmental health officers, and improve
  • environmental health employment opportunities, etc 
  • Community-based organisations to offer basic training (potentially as part of their employment orientation), that enables them to participate in emergency responses when events impact on their community
  • Tertiary training providers to strengthen the public health skills of the primary care and nursing workforces
  • Organisations to develop workforce plans for cross-sector issues, such as cancer control
  • Where appropriate, leading or contributing to specific workforce plans that involve many sectors, such as injury prevention, Maori health and Pacific health
  • Acknowledging that strengthening the public health workforce has an indirect flow-on benefit to other sectors due to movement across sectors.

Sign up to our email newsletter to stay in touch with our news and updates