Labour leader Andrew Little has had to clarify Labour's child poverty policies after he appeared to recommit to the party's 2014 policy of $60 a week payments for newborn babies.

Little was asked how Labour would address child poverty on Radio NZ and referred three times to the Best Start policy as an example of how Labour would lift incomes.

Asked whether Labour would increase benefits, Little said yes describing Best Start as "a benefit for children."

He has since denied he was recommitting to the policy for 2017, saying those policies were yet to be announced.


"I haven't committed to it, I committed to measures for poverty alleviation. I referred to our 2014 policy and said part of the package has to be income related policy, but I didn't specifically say we were going to do Best Start all over again."

Best Start was one of Labour's key campaign policies in 2014. It provided for a near-universal $60 a week payment for the first year of a baby's life with further payments for poor families for up to three years.

Little made his comments on RNZ after criticising Prime Minister John Key for his refusal to agree to a target to reduce child poverty or to accept any one measure of poverty.

It followed Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft's call on the Government to commit to cutting the 149,000 Kiwi kids living in material deprivation by 10 per cent by the end of next year.

Little said he would sign up to that target and claimed Key was making excuses for his failure to do so.

His eventual goal was complete elimination of child poverty, which Little said would take a lot longer - possibly more than two terms in Government.

He said a comprehensive package was required and the starting point would be the Best Start package.

"I can't say what the final package will look like, but we will at least have a package."

Dubbed Best Start, the scheme was announced by former Labour leader David Cunliffe ahead of the last election.

When Labour announced the policy in January 2014, it said the first year payments would apply for those with household incomes of less than $150,000 a year, which Labour estimates would be about 59,000 households or 95 per cent of children aged under one.

The longer term payments for those on lower incomes would cover about 56 per cent of one and two year olds, Labour said.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has endorsed Becroft's call for a 10 per cent reduction in child poverty, and called for all parties to work together on the issue.

The lobby group said little will change until targets are set and significant policies put in place and progress is monitored.

"The time has passed for arguments about what measure to use," said Associate Professor Susan St John, the group's economics spokeswoman.

"CPAG has concrete suggestions for policies that will make a real difference. One place to start is with an overhaul of Working for Families...all low income children must be treated the same for child related tax credits.

"And all parts of Working for Families need to be adjusted for past inflation and indexed annually to wages as - just as we do for New Zealand Superannuation."