Child poverty in ‘Godzone’? Evidence and actions to reduce child poverty in New Zealand

Dr Airini, Head of the School of Critical Studies in Education, The University of Auckland

Co-presented with the Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney

11 March

As Australians like to say we are the ‘lucky country’, New Zealanders say they live in the ‘the land of plenty’. They like to believe ‘Godzone’ is a great place for children. For most children this is indeed true. But it is not true for children living in poverty. As many as 25 percent of New Zealand’s children – about 270,000 – currently live in poverty. Such figures compare unfavourably with those of Australia and many European countries.

Child poverty is extremely costly. For individual children, it can mean going to school hungry and living in a cold, damp house. Important childhood opportunities are missed like school outings and sports. This can influence educational achievement and health outcomes. In New Zealand each year there is at least $6bn in additional health and education costs associated with child poverty, as well as reduced productivity.

Finding the policy mix that will get results is not simple. How can a country improve the circumstances of their most deprived children? How do you ensure your country is a great place to live for all your children? What is the role of education for solutions to child poverty? This presentation will address these questions, drawing on the report and recommended actions of a report to the New Zealand Children's Commissioner. Hundreds of New Zealanders, including children, contributed to this report. Their voices will be included in this presentation. Overall it was clear that action is needed, now. No child should experience severe and persistent poverty, least of all in ‘the land of plenty’.

Dr Airini

Dr Airini is Head of the School of Critical Studies in Education, The University of Auckland. She does research into equity issues in education and solutions. Airini has led national strategy and policy development in New Zealand, OECD and developing nations, and has worked for UNESCO. She was the sole education specialist invited by the New Zealand Children’s Commissioner to join the 2012 Expert Advisory Group to plan actions to overcome child poverty in New Zealand. (www.education.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/airini)

Click here to listen to Dr Airini's interview on 'NZ children living in poverty' on ABC Radio National.