The timing for this year’s New Zealand Aged Care Association’s (NZACA) conference couldn’t have been better, with concerns over pay equity and immigration fresh in delegates’ minds, a funding review about to get underway, and a General Election looming.

The standout issues for providers were unsurprisingly the impacts of the pay equity settlement and the new immigration policy on their staff and businesses. The conference tackled these head-on with sessions dedicated to these areas. Employment law specialist Geoff O’Sullivan talked providers through employees’ rights under the new pay equity settlement, while Judith Johnson led a discussion on practical changes employers can make to their staffing mix if they are struggling to afford the increase in wages.

Immigration New Zealand confirmed that an ANZSCO review was on the table, which could potentially result in caregivers being reclassified as Level 3, thereby exempting them from the new one-year stand-down rule, that at the moment many are now subject to. Providers were worried to hear that sector consultation might not be a part of this.

Providers’ concerns over immigration policies came to light in the political panel session. Worryingly, many members of the panel, which included spokespeople from five major political parties, appeared to be rather ignorant of the how the recent changes affected the sector. In fact, providers came away from the panel feeling like the challenges their sector were facing were largely misunderstood.

Led by the shrewd and entertaining Kim Hill, the political panel was arguably the highlight of the conference.

The ‘big picture’ stuff was well-received too, with economist Ganesh Nana posing some big questions about the future of New Zealand’s aged care sector (but with no answers) and Cam Ansell delivering some interesting lessons learned from the Australian experience of bonding and funding systems.

The even bigger picture stuff had everyone’s brains hurting as they grappled with Kaila Corbin’s talk on how exponential and converging technologies are going to have a dramatic effect on our lives. Concepts of self-driving cars, internalised nanobots and even the notion of immortality had the audience reeling. Corbin followed Sir Ray Avery, whose key message was that innovation is within everyone’s grasp.

The excellent Broadway-themed gala dinner saw Dorothies, Annies, Pink Ladies and nuns take the dance floor. Master of Ceremonies Te Radar’s costume didn’t disappoint either; he was outshone only by the award winners of the NZACA Excellence in Care Awards, which saw Oceania’s Lady Allum Village take home the Supreme Award.

The trade show felt enormous this year, with stands boasting a huge range of products and services, including some first-time NZACA exhibitors.

All in all, another excellent conference from the NZACA, providing a raft of different speakers on a broad range of topics, and a timely forum for discussion around the big issues affecting the residential aged care sector.

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