The Government has announced a four-year $67 million campaign aimed at lifting physical activity and slashing New Zealand's growing obesity rates.

In this year's Budget the Government promised $76 million over four years to combat obesity and today Prime Minister Helen Clark announced a raft of measures to get young New Zealanders healthy.

"We have always been known as a country of fit, active people and the Labour-led Government believes this is a legacy worth protecting," she said.

"An epidemic of obesity threatens to undo the significant progress made in improving our health and quality of life.

"Unless something changes, the current generation of young New Zealanders may very well be the first to die at a younger age than their parents.

"By improving nutrition and reversing the declining levels of physical activity among young Kiwis, New Zealand will be much better placed to prevent obesity."

The Government has dubbed the initiative "Mission On".

It includes:

* improving nutrition in schools and early childhood centres;

* a new celebrity "lifestyle ambassadors" campaign;

* encouraging voluntary moves in the advertising industry to reduce marketing of unhealthy food to children;

* more school, internet and television promotion of healthy food;

* a campaign to encourage less time in front of TVs and computers;

* the expansion of "green prescriptions" -- for things like exercise;

* health impact assessments on all new policy and legislation.

Education Minister Steve Maharey said a $28 million chunk of the money would be focused on schools and early childhood centres.

The initiative includes the $12 million over four years already announced this week to improve nutrition in schools as part of the Greens' support agreement with Labour.

"While many schools and early childhood services have already made major changes, more needs to be done and the wider community also need to be engaged and take responsibility."

Under changes schools would be required to develop policy that promoted healthy eating and drinking.

There would also be more health promotion in schools and more education and support for teachers.

- NZPA