Small drop in Kiwi child poverty numbers leaves 'room for cautious optimism', says Children's Commissioner

The growth in child poverty has been halted and indicators of the problem are dropping, says the Children's Commissioner, upon the release of the latest Child Poverty Monitor data.

The 2017 Child Poverty Monitor shows 12 per cent, or 135,000 New Zealand children are living in material hardship, down from 14 per cent or 155,000 in 2016. 

It means 135,000 children are in households that are living without seven or more items from a list of 17 considered necessary for their wellbeing.

Twenty-seven per cent, or 290,000 children, are living in low income homes where money is tight and are considered to be in income poverty, down from 28 per cent, or 295,000, in 2016. 

We need to see changes like these every year to see a substantial long-term decrease in poverty - Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft

More than seven per cent, or 80,000 children, are in severe poverty, experiencing both material hardship and living in a low income household, and that's down from eight per cent or 90,000 in 2016. 

The number of children living in low income households has dropped by two per cent in the past year, but 12 per cent remain in poverty. Source: Breakfast

Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft says the small drop in children living in low income households or lacking the items they need for everyday living follows an increase in benefit levels in 2015 and other adjustments by the previous government.

While small, Judge Becroft says this drop is "absolutely" a good thing, leaving "room for cautious optimism".

"We're told that this Government as well are going to increase the Working for Families package, so it should be encouraging but we don't need just one-off initiatives, we need concerted, sustained, strategic commitment that lasts until we've at least halved child poverty, which is our United Nations goal, by 2030," Judge Becroft said on TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning.

"I look forward to the day when we won't need an annual child poverty child poverty report."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised to personally end child poverty but she is being asked to listen to those on the front line. Source: Marae

But he says the 290,000 children in low income households, and up to 135,000 lacking basic items, "combines to produce a poverty of opportunity for children which we want to undo".

"These policies will make a real difference in reversing the trend," Judge Becroft said.

"But it is essential that we keep up this momentum. One small step will not be enough.

"We can see for the first time some real progress towards wiping out child poverty, but it will take many small steps to get there." 

Dr Mavis Duncanson, Director of the NZ Child and Youth Epidemiology Service at Otago University said all children need the same things to support their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, such as a warm, dry home, a sustaining meal with vegetables and protein regularly, clothes and shoes that fit properly, a place to study quietly, and the use of a computer and internet at home. 

Government committed to making significant progress

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the small drop in the number of children in low income households is welcome but there are still thousands of New Zealand children going without the basics they need and the Government is committed to making significant progress on lifting children out of poverty.

"Every child deserves the best start in life and to grow up and reach their potential free of the burden of poverty," Ms Ardern said. 

I am prepared to be held to account - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

"When I took on responsibility for child poverty reduction six weeks ago I committed to making substantial progress on lifting children out of poverty," she said.

"I am ambitious for all our children. They are relying on the Government to make real change, and I am prepared to be held to account for achieving it."

The Families Package, and her Child Poverty Reduction Bill, will have a significant impact on families who are struggling to pay for the basics for their children and will ensure the public can track the Government’s progress, Ms Ardern said.

Details of the package, targeted at those who need support the most, will be announced next week, she said. 

Child advocate Anton Blank said a 2011 report from the advocacy coalition Every Child Counts estimated 60 per cent of the children living below the poverty line were Maori and Pasifika and today's monitor shows some improvement for these groups, especially in education.

Judge Andrew Becroft said the fact 70,000 to 80,000 Kiwi children are living in "hardcore" poverty must change, but there is room for "cautious optimism". Source: Breakfast

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Japan and NZ join forces to help Pacific

Japan and New Zealand are joining forces to speed up assistance to the Pacific region.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the strategic partnership aimed to ensure funding for development goes a lot further.

Mr Peters has had talks in Wellington with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono on teaming up to ensure decisions made don't get caught up in bureaucracy.

But he said how this would be done was still a matter for discussion.

"It would mean that a country that knows more about the Pacific than any other country - namely New Zealand - would play a key role in that and we're asking countries like Japan and elsewhere to acknowledge that."

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the two countries would be linking up at various levels including ocean security and enhancing connectivity

"The Pacific island region is strategically important for both Japan and New Zealand," he said.

Japan would also like to co-operate with New Zealand to resolve the problem of Pacific island debt, the Foreign Minister said.

1 NEWS' Jessica Mutch and Benedict Collins give their opinions of the Acting Prime Minister who ran the country during Jacinda Ardern’s maternity leave.
Winston Peters. Source: 1 NEWS


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John Armstrong's opinion: Simon Bridges would've been castigated as incompetent if he didn't expose Jami-Lee Ross as leaker

The confirmation — surprise, surprise — that indeed it was Jami-Lee Ross who leaked embarrassing details of Simon Bridges' travel expenses to the media has vindicated the widely-scorned decision by the National Party leader to hunt down the culprit forthwith.

Simon Bridges has copped an inordinate, unfair and just plain wrong amount of stick for what his many critics have deemed to be amateur-hour handling of something which should have been brushed aside with barely a moment’s thought such was its insignificance in the grand scheme of things. And even more so given the information in question was about to be released by authorities into the public domain anyway.

In keeping alive something which succeeded in only shifting the focus away from matters which Bridges and his colleagues should have been talking about, the former poured more petrol on the funeral pyre that has been under construction since the opinion polls indicated that the replacement for Sir Bill English was not capturing the public’s imagination.

The Opposition leader launched an inquiry into the leak of his expenses earlier this year. Source: 1 NEWS

Even though he is not to blame for the two months that it has taken consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers to complete their investigation of the leak, Bridges should have expected the exercise would take far longer to complete than initially envisaged. That is always the case.

The flow of events has all added up to more ammunition for those who have convinced themselves that Bridges not only lacks the personal characteristics that a modern-day leader needs to win elections, he is also in deficit when it comes to the possession of the necessary political skills.

That those who feel that way are less forthcoming when it comes to declaring who exactly should replace him, that discrepancy has not diminished their desire that Bridges be dumped before election season returns.

If there is any failure of judgment on Bridges’ part, however, it is more evident on the part of Bridges’ detractors.

When it came to managing his way out of the kind of mess in which National is currently donkey-deep, Sir John Key unfailingly applied what he considered to be a golden rule: namely think hard about the counter-factual. In other words, assess what was likely to happen if a possible course of action was not taken.

The material leaked by Ross might have been of little significance. The act of leaking was another matter entirely. It was gross disloyalty on the part of the Botany MP and now ex-spokesman on transport and infrastructure matters.

That is something no leader can tolerate. It is something no caucus can tolerate. When the source of a leak remains unidentified, trust between caucus members inevitably suffers. The caucus cannot function properly. The freedom to discuss matters of crucial import to a political party is inevitably constrained by the fear that what is regarded as confidential will end up online or on the front pages of the following day’s newspapers.

Both Bridges and Ross have now made it patently obvious that the working relationship between National’s leader and his seventh-ranked MP had broken down completely since the former secured the party’s top job back in February.

Ross might have been No 7 in the caucus, but he was clearly No 1 on list of those suspected of possibly being the leaker.

Had Bridges taken the advice of his critics and chosen not to expose the source of the leak, he would have been pilloried by those same critics had Ross repeated the act of treachery.

Bridges would have been portrayed as weak. He would have been castigated as incompetent.

Bridges could not gamble on Ross not leaking again. Given Ross’s state of mind, the risks involved in doing nothing were exponentially increased.

Bridges would have realised that at some point he was going to have to confront Ross. To delay that day of reckoning was to damage both himself and the party.

As it is, Bridges is paying a price for simply doing what had to be done.

Voters will be wondering whether Ross was operating alone or in cahoots with others. They will wonder whether Bridges was being straight with them with his previous insistence that there was no connection between the leak investigation and Ross taking an extended leave of absence from Parliament for "personal health issues".

They will wonder whether this episode speaks of what life is really like in the National caucus and whether it is a veritable vipers’ nest of over-sized egos and over-inflated ambition united only by its members’ insatiable greed for power.

Above all, it will leave voters wondering just how robust is Bridges’ grip on the leadership.

The voters will not have to wonder where Ross now stands in all of this, however. He won’t have any standing. It is odds-on will be expelled from the caucus and will subsequently have his membership of the party rescinded by the board of the National Party very shortly thereafter.

Anything less punitive than that course of action would risk being interpreted by friend and foe alike as a vote of no confidence in Bridges.

National would then be looking for a new leader. While there is still much uncertainty as to how the following days might play out before this messy distraction has finally run its ugly course, that is one thing which is most definitely not going to happen.

Jessica Mutch McKay says Simon Bridges faces a "long, drawn out and embarrassing process to try and get rid of him". Source: 1 NEWS

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Four facing charges after massive illegal pāua bust

A massive illegal haul of pāua, mostly undersized, has been uncovered in Taranaki following an operation by the police and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Fishery officers and police discovered four people with a total of 736 pāua, 703 of which were undersized after they were stopped at a checkpoint.

A vehicle and a set net have been seized. They now face serious charges.

The Taranaki region has a lower minimum size for pāua because the shellfish are naturally small and never reach the minimum legal size that applies to the rest of the country.

Fishery officers have returned all of the shellfish to the sea.

rnz.co.nz

Paua
Paua Source: rnz.co.nz


Kiwi and Aussie police dogs fighting it out to be crowned the best in Australasia

The trans-Tasman rivalry between New Zealand and Australia will hit another gear this week, with both nations' police dogs fighting it out for the title of Australasia's best.

New Zealand's Paw Blacks are looking to defend their title, with the Australian team in Wellington looking to pinch the Kiwi's crown.

However, for those in the industry, the competition is more about setting standards than trans-Tasman oneupmanship.

"It's around benchmarking we all work together very closely with the Australians so for each state and each dog section it's just seeing how we are and of course there's a friendly rivalry as well," NZ dog coordinator Todd Southall told 1 NEWS.

For the competition though, the Australians are looking to restore some pride, with the likes of the Kiwis and Silver Ferns claiming success over their arch rivals already this week.

"All we've coped since we got here is mentions of the sporting prowess of New Zealand at the moment so we are looking to maybe right that in some very small way," Australia's Craig Charles said.

The top dog will be revealed on Thursday night.

For the first time in 20 years New Zealand’s playing host to the trans-Tasman canine competition. Source: 1 NEWS


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