Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Call to focus election on child poverty

Advocate targets motorists, well-off, elderly

Dr Wills says child poverty should be a key issue in next year's election. Photo / File
Dr Wills says child poverty should be a key issue in next year's election. Photo / File

Children's Commissioner, Dr Russell Wills, wants motorists, the well-off and the elderly to take less from taxpayers so that more public funding can go into tackling child poverty.

Dr Wills is raising the stakes in his personal crusade for poor children in an opinion article in today's Herald, saying child poverty should be a key issue in next year's election.

He has used charitable funding from the J.R. McKenzie Trust to poll 750 people, finding that voters now put child poverty ahead of unemployment as a "very important" issue facing the country - 63 per cent rated child poverty as very important, compared with 61 per cent who felt the same about the cost of living and only 52 per cent for unemployment.

He is also appealing to groups representing motorists and the elderly, and health bosses, to support diverting public funding into measures that would help poor children, such as lifting family tax credits for preschoolers, more social housing, and extending free doctors' visits to all children under 18.

His call drew a predictably cool response. Grey Power president Roy Reid said his members would be prepared to pay "a small increase in tax" to provide more for poor children if necessary, but the costs should be shared across all taxpayers rather than taken from the elderly alone.

Automobile Association motoring affairs manager Mike Noon said roading was funded by motorists directly through petrol taxes and road user charges.

Property Investors Federation executive officer Andrew King said landlords would support compulsory insulation for rental housing, but not a full "warrant of fitness" scheme requiring a costly inspectorate.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said it was "absolutely appropriate" for the Children's Commissioner to advocate for children.

Labour children's spokeswoman, Jacinda Ardern, said the party would prioritise tackling child poverty.


Read the recent Child Poverty Monitor report here.

- NZ Herald

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