The United Nations has expressed concern over shortfalls in the rights of New Zealand children, including "staggering" infant and child mortality rates and a lack representation for children in legislation.

It has questioned why New Zealand does not have a department or ministry responsible for children's issues.

The UN committee on the rights of the child has been meeting with Government representatives in Geneva to examine our performance on child rights.

The committee found that while the majority of children were living well and in a safe and protective environment where their rights were respected, there were areas where improvements were needed, including areas of serious concern.

The committee noted that, although many laws had been passed, children were "fairly invisible" in legislation and regretted that the age of criminality had been lowered for some cases.

Committee member Maria Herczog said child rights-based policy did not exist as there was no specific department or ministry responsible for issues related to children.

Ms Herczog said an increase in expenditure on children's issues was welcome, but the way resources were allocated would not eliminate child poverty and inequalities.

The committee commended the government's anti-smacking legislation, but was concerned that it did not explicitly prohibit all forms of corporal punishment.

Another committee underlined that many developments had been seen regarding the right to life and survival, yet child and infant mortality rates remained "staggering" and had not changed over the past ten years.

The member noted that 20 percent of children in New Zealand lived in income poverty.

The committee will release its formal concluding observations and recommendations towards the end of its three-week session, which will conclude on February 4.

- NZPA