Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Exodus means fewer hungry kids

An Auckland school that was a poster child for the KickStart breakfast programme says the number of children coming to school hungry has dropped - because about one in every six has gone to Australia.

Wesley Intermediate, a decile 1 school in Mt Roskill where former Fonterra boss Andrew Ferrier helped serve breakfast in 2009, still feeds 30 to 40 of its 130 students with Fonterra milk and Sanitarium's Weet-Bix on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

But principal Nigel Davis said the programme was needed "probably more in some other schools than our own at the moment" and would extend to five days a week with the new government funding only if local volunteers could handle it.

"In the past we could have done it every day because there was a real big need," he said. "Back in 2009 it was really quite noticeable that kids were not eating breakfast. It's not so much now."

But he said there had not been any upturn in jobs for the children's parents. Instead, families had gone to Australia and had not been replaced because houses had been taken to extend Auckland's southwestern motorway.

"Our roll is down 30 over two or three years," he said. "We lost 18 families last year to Australia. Over the Christmas break we lost another seven. So the decile 1 families, I think, and I can quote my daughter who has seen similar things happen at the school she teaches at in South Auckland, they can't find employment in New Zealand so they are going to live with their uncles and aunties in Australia."

Former Wesley student Aroha Ireland, who went to Waitangi with Prime Minister John Key in 2007, moved to Australia aged 17 in 2011.

- NZ Herald

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