More money is the only thing that will stop a planned nurses strike from going ahead, their union says.
The union, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), notified district health boards that they intend to take industrial action next month if mediation this week does not bring an improvement in what they has been offered.
Strikes lasting 24-hours are slated for 5 and 12 July.
The government has said it is not able to increase the offer it made last month, which is worth nearly half a billion dollars.
It included pay rises of 9 percent over the next 15 months, with some eligible for a 15 percent increase, and an increase in staffing.
However, union industrial services manager Cee Payne said that was not good enough.
"We're clear that there does need to be more money to be able to reach agreement.
"I think it would be good for the parties to not say what they can't do until such time as we get to talk. I think it's really important there is a genuine negotation."
Ms Payne was hopeful an agreement would be reached.
"We're positive people and we work well with the DHBs on a day-to-day basis and the health sector, and the relationships are strong.
"However, we are in the middle of a dispute."
The mediation could roll into Monday or even Tuesday, Ms Payne said.
Hospitals prepare for potential strikes
Hospitals are not yet sure how many patients are likely to be affected when the union's 27,000 members strike.
Essential and emergency services will still be available at hospitals but outpatient appointments and elective or non-urgent surgery will be deferred.
Capital and Coast DHB said the delivery suite and maternity ward at Wellington Hospital would stay open.
Women booked to give birth at Kenepuru Hospital in Hutt Valley, or the Kāpiti Health Centre, or who go into labour on a strike day, will need to travel to Wellington.