The world's most famous fast-food clown will soon be the public face of children's dental hygiene in one of New Zealand's most needy areas.
The mobile dental unit carrying the branding of Ronald McDonald House Charities will start touring South Auckland schools before the end of the year.
The "Ronald McDonald" clown brand is the public face of the fast-food chain McDonald's.
The deal has been criticised by the New Zealand Dental Association because it objects to basic health needs having to be fundedby the private sector.
The Counties Manukau District Health Board gets the $500,000 mobile dental unit through Ronald McDonald House Charities this month.
It comes seven years after Northland DHB accepted a van, making New Zealand the only country other than the United States to have two of the units.
Ronald McDonald House Charities programme manager Grant Hiskens said the scheme saved taxpayer money.
"The current Government loves it. Our PR people are in Wellington all the time. They have spoken recently to people quite high up in the ministry and they are excited about it. The support is there because the Government can see it helps them out."
He said there was a clear separation between the charity andthe fast-food chain.
"If people can't just look at the bigger picture and see we're filling a gap that our Government will not, or cannot, due to the cost, that is a whole other story. Our programmes are supplying something ... the Government will not supply."
Counties Manukau Health chief executive Geraint Martin said the DHB was "delighted to be the recipient of such corporate generosity".
The DHB did not ask for the van without the branding, saying it was aware of the charity's requirements.
Dental Association chief executive Dr David Crum said the Government should be providing basic healthcare.
"We have such a history of providing free basic dental care to children. Now we are heading to allowing fast-food chain corporations to be the funder of that? It's crazy."
Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said he convinced his board to halt a similar deal when he ran the West Coast health board.
Labour health spokeswoman Maryan Street said careful judgments had to be made about private-public partnerships in health.
"There will be an inherent contradiction in some of this stuff."By David Fisher @@DFisherJourno Email David