Hawke's Bay has been urged to lead a charge to better protect the rights of children, as New Zealand faces international scrutiny of its efforts later this year.

The call came at a Napier Pilot City forum, which picked up on a founding principle of the Pilot City concept dating back more than 30 years. It was in 1986 that fourth Labour Government Minister of Police and Social Welfare Ann Hercus designated Napier a Pilot City for the study and implementation of positive alternatives to violence.

It stemmed from a week-long 1977 Social Development Council of New Zealand visit to the Hawke's Bay Community College (now the EIT), after which it suggested to Government that Napier, as a city of under 60,000 people, was "not yet too large a city to learn about itself".

Now UNICEF national advocacy manager and former Minister of Youth Affairs Deborah Morris-Travers, who was at yesterday's forum, wants Napier to join the Child Friendly Cities project piloted in Whangarei and currently being examined by other councils.


Napier city councillor Maxine Boag was at the forum and said later she supported the concept and suggested Ms Morris-Travers submit to the council during the annual plan processes.

"It will need someone to champion it," she said.

The Child Friendly Cities Initiative aims to guide councils and communities to put children first in decision-making, implementing all aspects of the convention at a local level.

Pilot Trust founder Pat Magill had said there were "distressing" tales of Child, Youth and Family's intervention with families, some claiming the approach was "punitive" and "judgmental" rather than based on resolution.

Ms Morris-Travers said: "We have got years and years to undo. Now is the time for communities to up their game. We really need everybody on board and to be aware of what is needed for the wellbeing of our children."

With it now being two decades since New Zealand signed-up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the forum questioned how well the country is living up to its commitment and what more can be done?

Earlier this month, Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley revealed government plans for an overhaul of its Child, Youth and Family service, following at least the 14th review of the service since 1988.

Ms Morris-Travers, who has two children, said there were "positives" in the latest review, but the outcomes depended on how plans are implemented.