Fast food giant McDonald's is "extremely disappointed" at being dumped by police as the sponsor for their road safety campaign in schools, but child health advocates are praising the move.
McDonald's had given police $40,000 a year for the past 20 years, in a marketing campaign which includes television advertisements and school visits.
But Acting Superintendent Sam Hoyle, national manager of youth services, told the Press newspaper the money was "a drop in the bucket" compared to the millions police already spent on road safety.
Police will make up the shortfall from their own budget, he said.
The end of the alliance with McDonald's comes shortly after the government announced its $67 million, four-year campaign to tackle childhood obesity.
But police said the dumping was not related to the anti-obesity push.
Corporate sponsorship was against national policy and although the partnership had been helpful, it had run its course, Mr Hoyle said.
National's law and order spokesman Simon Power said the police have been forced to adhere to a "misguided ideology about commercial involvement".
"I understand that over the 10 years that this campaign ran, McDonald's pumped $8 million into the campaign, including a $40,000 donation and considerable resource support.
"Now all that is down the drain because of some blind adherence to this Government's ideology.
"If the police are serious about continuing this very successful and recognisable campaign, they are going to have to find $8 million over 10 years from their own very stretched budget."
Obesity Action Coalition spokeswoman Celia Murphy said McDonald's got astonishing value from its yearly contribution.
"The McDonald's brand was presented in schools and pre-schools all around the country by one of the most credible of authority figures," she said.
"Every time the kids crossed the road at school the McDonald's brand was there on the vests of the patrol monitors. The whole deal was outrageous."
Part of the sponsorship deal involved police taking Ronald McDonald with them on school visits.
Children were rewarded for good behaviour with food vouchers.
McDonald's marketing director Ian Sutcliffe said the company was extremely disappointed police had decided to end the joint campaign.
"We have enjoyed the association with the New Zealand Police and the road-safety programme, and we believe our support has made a difference."
Green MP Sue Kedgley said she was delighted McDonald's had been dumped, as schools should be commercial-free zones.
- NZPA, NZHERALD STAFF