No child left behind.

That's the idea behind a council-facilitated child equity programme which is one step closer to reality after a council meeting.

At Rotorua Lakes Council's Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee meeting yesterday, council strategy adviser Jill Campbell explained the Child Equity Programme proposed to be piloted at Sunset Primary School.

"This is a council-facilitated programme to address inequities for our local children and focus on ensuring Rotorua is a place for everyone."


The programme is in its early stages and over the next few months will be developed by the council in partnership with Sunset Primary School.

Campbell told the committee there were more than 4000, or 41 per cent, of children aged 9 and under living in Rotorua with a deprivation rating of 9 to 10; the highest deprivation level in New Zealand.

"Our children in these communities are living in real material hardship and many of these children are going without basic needs," Campbell said.

"We want to challenge ourselves and look at the opportunity for our children to get to the Blue Lake. We want our children to ride bikes, we want them to participate in school holiday programmes.

"We want to ... ensure they have the opportunity to visit a marae, go to the beach, touch the snow and do things that some of our other children take for granted."

The programme would see the council start by making its services, like the library and aquatic centre, more accessible.

After the meeting, current Sunset Primary School principal Niels Rasmussen said the programme would provide a great start and give children the opportunities they had been missing out on.

"As principal for a number of years I've seen children in my area miss out on opportunities that are available out there for the community.

Departing Sunset Primary School principal Niels Rasmussen said the programme would help children get a great start. Photo / Stephen Parker
Departing Sunset Primary School principal Niels Rasmussen said the programme would help children get a great start. Photo / Stephen Parker

"Largely because of the lack of funding within families, the lack of knowledge of what's out there and the lack of opportunity to get there. I've seen lots of talented students whose potential has not been realised."

Eden Chapman will become the school's principal next year so is also working to develop the pilot programme.

He told the Rotorua Daily Post it was important for those with the ability to address equity to do so.

"Kids are missing out in more ways than we can imagine. This will help and have a flow-on effect to long-term hopes and aspirations for kids.

"The number of kids in Fordlands who have never even been to the lakes would stun most people."

During discussions at the meeting, committee chairwoman councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said she supported the programme.

"There is no doubt that we are an unequal society ... No child should be left behind."

Councillor Charles Sturt said the programme would "lead the way" and councillor Tania Tapsell said she would wholeheartedly support the pilot programme.

"I strongly believe people are our greatest asset and I believe children in Rotorua should never have to doubt they are valuable and deserving of every chance and opportunity to participate in community activities," Tapsell said.

Group manager strategy Jean-Paul Gaston said to fund the programme the council would likely reach out to not-for-profit and philanthropic trusts such as the Ngāti Whakaue Education Endowment Trust.

Funding will be part of the planning conversations over the next few months.

The committee recommended to the council it approve the implementation of the pilot Child Equity Programme. The full council's next meeting is on November 22.

Following the meeting mayor Steve Chadwick said in a statement the programme had potential to make a big difference.

"Simple things can have a very big impact and this would be a proactive, preventive approach to breaking the poverty cycle and the long-term implications of that," she said.

"This proposal recognises the potentially life-changing benefits of children and their whanau participating in and being connected to their communities and the activities that are available.

"There is a cost to inequity, for both individuals and society, and there will be some very simple things that can be done to make a significant and tangible difference."

Facts about deprivation:
- 41 per cent (4323) of Rotorua's (10,389) 0-9 year olds live in areas with a deprivation rating of 9-10. These children are living in real material hardship and many are going without basic needs.
- Three out of five tamariki living in poverty stay there for life.
- The majority are Māori.
- Barriers to access include financial, transport, technology and proper clothing.