New Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has moved boldly to broaden support for tackling child poverty through an expert advisory group that includes the head of Business New Zealand.

The 13-member advisory panel held its first meeting yesterday, and Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said it was the first time he had ever been invited to "do something like this".

"He [Dr Wills] invited me. What am I going to say - 'No, children can go to buggery?' Of course I'm not," he said.

"I have an enormous amount of respect for those around the table, so I'm looking forward to the debate and I'm looking forward to any form of consensus building."


Dr Wills said he asked Mr O'Reilly to join the group because jobs were central to lifting families out of poverty.

"I can't see how you can solve child poverty without involving business."

The group will be co-chaired by Victoria University public policy professor Jonathan Boston and Auckland University sociologist Dr Tracey McIntosh, a Tuhoe researcher who found that virtually all Maori women in prisons had been physically or sexually abused and excluded from school by the age of 13.

The other members are Samoan educationalist Dr Airini, Maori health researcher Dr Fiona Cram, family law expert Professor Mark Henaghan, "Healthy Housing" research director Philippa Howden-Chapman, Professor Richie Poulton, who heads the 40-year Dunedin study of children born in 1972, Tonga-born small business expert Dr James Prescott, Salvation Army social services director Major Campbell Roberts, economist Bob Stephens, doctor and Child Poverty Action group member Dr Nikki Turner, and Sharon Wilson-Davis of Tainui's Mangere social service agency Strive.