Northland schools and period poverty campaigners are thrilled that free sanitary products will be provided to all schools from June.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti said on Thursday that period products would be available to all primary, intermediate, secondary school and kura students who need them.
Kaikohe East School principal Chicky Rudkin said though not many of her students require them, as they were provided by public health nurses, they "will be very helpful for whānau and the child themselves".
"Anything that's a support is going to relieve pressure from whānau – it's those sorts of items that might get left off shopping lists because they need extra loaves of bread."
Kerikeri High School associate principal Mike Clent said it was "fantastic news".
"It's a really good decision. I'm sure it'll make a positive difference for students."
The announcement follows a successful Access to Period Products pilot programme, which has been running since term 3 last year in 15 schools and kura in the Waikato region.
Ardern said the positive response to the pilot encouraged the expansion of the initiative to all New Zealand schools and kura.
The Ministry of Education would work with suppliers to manage a phased rollout of the scheme nationwide, which will happen by the end of term 2.
Providing free period products at school would address poverty, help increase school attendance, and make a positive impact on children's wellbeing, Ardern said.
"Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population."
Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime – who has been campaigning on the issue for the past four years - said the news was fantastic.
"I know first-hand the difference this will make for Northland," Prime said.
"From a Northland perspective it's fantastic. It will make a difference from what I've seen and heard on the ground from our communities.
"I hope and encourage schools to opt in and take up the opportunity. And I'd like to see us look at the reusable options in the future."
Schools and kura must opt in by March if they want to be part of the programme, though they will be able to take part at a later date.
KidsCan - which has been providing free period products to schools since 2015 – also welcomed the move.
Chief executive Julie Chapman said having access to sanitary products was a basic human right.
"In New Zealand no one should be missing school because they don't have period products.
"Due to Covid-19, we have more families than ever forced to choose between buying period products or food.
"Period inequity is creating huge anxiety in our already vulnerable young girls. It is a barrier to an education they desperately need to get out of poverty."
Last year KidsCan distributed more than 130,000 packs of products to students across the country.