Child poverty costs New Zealand as much as $10 billion a year and three-quarters of that cost is avoidable, a public health conference in Wellington has been told.

Independent researcher John Pearce, who spent two years studying the subject, said about 200,000 children grew up in poverty in New Zealand.

He told the Public Health Association Conference yesterday that the costs of child poverty were in four areas - poor education and its effect on productivity ($2.2 billion), health ($3 billion-$4.5 billion), crime ($2.2 billion) and social welfare ($1.4 billion).

"No one disputes child poverty is an important and difficult problem, but no one has added up the national economic cost of our current policies on child poverty," he said.


Mr Pearce, who did his research as an unpaid project with Auckland thinktank Analytica, said the costs could never be exact.

"What is needed is a much more in-depth analysis by the Government to make the real costs of child poverty known," he said.

"It's within our power to change and should be a top national priority."