Free eye tests will soon be available for every Kiwi kid under 16 thanks to a new initiative from Specsavers.

'Kids Go Free' launches this Sunday, a permanent offer of free comprehensive eye exams for the nearly one million children under 16 around the country.

An eye exam at Specsavers usually costs $60.

Specsavers retail director Brendan Thompson said the offer was "an extension of the philosophy of providing great value eye care to New Zealanders".


Specsavers found more than 50 per cent of Kiwi kids had never had their eyes tested, something Mr Thompson said he hoped would change with the new offer.

Mr Thompson promised the cost would not be passed on to consumers.

"It is a large cost [but] it is something we are absorbing."

He hoped "long term relationships" would be established and kids who got their eyes tested at Specsavers would continue to come back as adults, Mr Thompson said.

The eye tests came with no strings attached - if a child needed glasses, they were not obligated to buy them at Specsavers, he said.

'It's a bit of a public service."

Specsavers had noticed not many parents were taking up the $60 eye exams, so offering them for free was an attempt to "remove barriers" for families, Mr Thompson said.

Under the initiative, children could come back for as many free eye exams as they needed over the course of their childhood.


Kids Go Free ambassador, television presenter Carly Flynn said she was passionate about good vision after struggling with bad eyesight as a child, so getting involved with the campaign was an easy decision to make.

"I'm all about everyone getting what they need. Having good eye health is really important."

Her two young children had their eyes tested at Specsavers today as the first recipients of the new scheme and both were given a clean bill of optical health.

Shaun Harden, 12, also had his eyes tested this morning.

Shaun said he had been "a little bit nervous" before the test because he had never had his eyes tested before and he was not sure what to expect.

"It was quite hard, when it got [smaller] it was harder to see."

Shaun said after the test the optometrist told him his vision was good in both eyes, which he said was a relief to hear.

Shaun's message to other kids was simple.

"Check your eyes. You don't know if you need glasses or not so just check them."

The Government currently offers free eye testing for under-5s and children will have their distance vision checked at school when they are 11 or 12.

Boys will also be screened for colour-blindness.

* Meanwhile, an Auckland newsreader is putting his support behind Glaucoma New Zealand and encouraging others to do the same.

Ten years ago, Radio New Zealand newsreader Mike Hodge was diagnosed with the early stages of glaucoma, a group of eye diseases where pressure builds up inside the eye and damages the optic nerve.

Glaucoma can be stopped in its tracks by using special eye drops, but if it isn't found in time, it can cause complete blindness.

"Managing glaucoma really is a doddle - take your eye drops and a check-up every six months," Hodge said.