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Media Releases:

Media release 10 March 2014

"Allowing New Zealanders with failing eyesight to struggle on unaided comes at a huge cost - socially, culturally and economically," says Dr Lynley Hood, spokesperson for VICTA (Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa NZ).

"That the number of low vision clinics in public hospitals has fallen from ten to two at a time when age-related vision loss is escalating is a scandal. Over 93,000 New Zealanders have incurable eye disorders that impair their ability to do everyday tasks like reading, driving and shopping, but only 12 percent of them are blind enough to get help from the Blind Foundation. For the rest there's next to nothing,"

On Wednesday 12 March at 11am, Associate Professor Gordon Sanderson, chair of VICTA, and Dr Hood will address the Health Select Committee on the urgent need for comprehensive, accessible low vision rehabilitation services in New Zealand.

"Low vision rehabilitation prevents falls and enables the elderly to live active independent lives. The savings to Vote Health alone will more than pay for the restoration of quality low vision clinics," Associate Professor Sanderson says.

Media release 16 June 2014

A trust working for the restoration of publicly-funded low vision rehabilitation services is dissociating itself from a Ministry of Health commissioned review of those services.

"We petitioned Parliament about the urgent need for low vision services," Associate Professor Gordon Sanderson, chair of Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa (VICTA) says. "Age related sight loss is increasing. The number of low vision clinics in public hospitals is falling. The Health Select Committee gave us a very good hearing. But all the Ministry came up with was a hasty, poorly designed review. We now know the Ministry was acting on advice from the Blind Foundation."

Sanderson, a former chair of the Blind Foundation, notes that the Foundation’s constitution was created "by the blind for the blind". It excludes people with low vision from Foundation membership, and from the Foundation’s charitable services.

VICTA trustee Dr Lynley Hood is exasperated: "Here we have a Ministry that is supposed to be giving the government independent advice on low vision services (and which also happens to be the Ministry that has allowed these services to decline at a time when they are most needed) taking advice from a Foundation that has spent 124 years ignoring or refusing to help people with low vision."

"We participated in the review in the hope that some good would come of it," Hood continues. "The contract requires Litmus to conduct the review using sound methodologies. But when Litmus addressed the first objective of the review ("determine the prevalence of people with low vision in New Zealand") by conducting an opinion poll of stakeholders ("What is your opinion of the prevalence of people with low vision in New Zealand"), it was clear our optimism was misplaced."

In the interests of transparency, VICTA is releasing evidence provided to the Minister of Health concerning the Ministry’s mishandling of VICTA’s petition.



Hon. Dame Catherine Tizard ONZ, GCMG, GCVO, DBE, QSO, DStJ
Former Mayor of Auckland and New Zealand's first female Governor General.

Founding Trustees:

Associate Professor Gordon Sanderson teaches and conducts research in the Ophthalmology Department at the University of Otago. He is a former Chair of the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind, Chair of the NZ National Eye Bank and a Director of the NZ Save Sight Society, Director of Glaucoma NZ, Member of the scientific and medical advisory board of the NZ Retinitis Pigmentosa Society and Chair of the Ministry of Health's NZ Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Group. He is an honorary fellow of the Royal Australian and NZ College of Ophthalmologists and a Member of the NZ Order of Merit (for services to people with visual impairments).

Dr Lynley Hood is a non-fiction writer. She has served on the boards of the NZ Society of Authors and NZ Fulbright Alumni Assoc., and has been active in many community organisations. She was one of The Press's 'Six of the Best New Zealanders of the Year' in 2001, and one of North & South's 'New Zealanders who made a difference' in 2002 and 2003. In 2009 Lynley developed visual impairment that compromises her ability to read. In 2011 she established a support group for visually impaired people in Dunedin.

Dr Don Brash is an economist with a long career in the public and private sectors. He was Governor of the Reserve Bank from 1988 to 2002. He entered Parliament in 2002 and was Leader of the Opposition from 2003 to 2006. Since leaving Parliament he has held directorships and academic positions in Melbourne, Auckland and Beijing. He has had operations for retinal detachments and cataracts in both eyes.

Kerry Buchan is an experienced events and conference manager with a wide range of academic, professional, business and government clients. Her skills include financial management, marketing, public relations, fund raising and business development.

Registered charity:

The Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aoteroa (NZ) is a registered charity; Charity Commission Registration Number CC48943.