Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has set a target to halve child poverty within 10 years.

She will announce a three-year target shortly and is now developing a child well-being strategy.

"My Government's plan will roughly halve child poverty within 10 years and establish New Zealand as one of the best performing countries for children," Ardern said at a church forum in Wellington to discuss the Government's 100-day plan.

"We will make an historic dent in child poverty and reduce low incomes and hardship among our children to levels New Zealand has not seen in decades."


She announced three 10-year targets:

• Reduce the proportion of children in low income households (using the before housing measure*) from roughly 15 percent of all children to 5 percent. This reduces the number by more than half from 160,000 to 60,000.

• Reduce the proportion of children in low income households (using the after housing costs measure*) from roughly 20 percent to 10 percent. This is a reduction of 90,000 children from 210,000 now to 120,000.

• Reduce the proportion of children in material hardship from between 13 and 15 percent now to 7 percent*. This reduces the number of children in this group from 150,000 to 80,000.

Setting the targets are requirements of the Child Poverty Reduction Bill which requires Governments to set a target for reducing child poverty against four different measures, report publicly on child poverty under those measures and develop a strategy to reduce child poverty.

Ardern said she would announce the three-year targets before public submissions are made on the bill at select committee.

She said that by targeting reductions in the rate of children in low income households and hardship, and not just the numbers, the Government was committing to keeping the rates low over time, rather than achieving one-off benefits that could quickly erode.

"We want to put an end to a political era that tolerated hardship and poverty among thousands of children and refocus governments on what's required to ensure all kinds have the opportunity to thrive."


She talked about Malachi Agnew, a 12-year-old Whakatane boy featured in the Herald last week who has many illnesses and wrote a bucket list.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to meet sick 12-year-old Malachi Agnew

"Among a long list of selfless acts, like sewing a wedding dress for his mother and sitting among heroes at his local RSA, were his thoughts on politics.

"He liked two of the things that we had done in our first 100 days – our families package because it would help kids who didn't have lunch, and the mental health inquiry because of what he had seen during his frequent hospital visits."

Long lists of policy often left out an important feature - "the why."

"Malachi seems to have picked that up. It is the 'why' that drives individual politicians, it's what motivates your policy agenda, it's what dictates the kind of government you are."

She talked about the work that Treasury started under National and which Finance Minister Grant Robertson is continuing – developing ways to measure the overall well-being of a country under the "Living Standards Framework."

"By Budget 2019 Grant and I want New Zealand to be the first country to assess bids for budget spending against new measures that determine not just how our spending will impact on gdp but also on our natural, social, human and possibly cultural capital too.

"It will no longer be good enough to say a policy is successful because it increases gdp if, at the same time, it also degrades the physical environment, or drives down wages or fractures a community."

She hoped she had left a sense of the type of Government she wanted to lead.

"One that doesn't create a sense of who we are but reflects back what we already believe to be true of ourselves.

"I'm looking forward to seeing that come to fruition over the next three years and to checking in with Malachi to see if we have measured up."