A collaboration to improve "child equity" between the council, a decile one school and other partners has been hailed as a success after its pilot year.
The child equity programme was launched by Rotorua Lakes Council at the beginning of 2019 as a collaboration between the council and Sunset Primary School in Fordlands.
The programme aimed to improve children's access to services and opportunities to improve outcomes for those children as they progressed to adulthood.
An update on the programme was presented by council sustainability and social development manager Rosemary Viskovic and the staff member in charge of the programme, strategy advisor Jill Campbell.
Campbell said the programme was about interrupting the poverty cycle and had been in part fueled by the re-introduction of the "four wellbeings" in the Local Government Act.
"Forty-nine per cent of Rotorua's birth to nine-year-olds live in areas of highest deprivation, 9-10.
"Point blank, you don't get poorer than 9-10. That leads you to question basic needs being met."
Three out of five children living in poverty stay there for life, she said.
"Those tamariki very often are not playing sport, they're not doing school holiday programmes, they're not participating in other things that can help them thrive because there's no additional funds to make that happen."
The majority of those children were Māori.
A programme was co-designed with Sunset Primary School with the goal to improve access to council facilities and programmes, and other extra-curricular activities, including sport.
An example of that was discovering some children were not accessing free swimming lessons as they did not own togs or towels.
"So that's an easy fix, but sometimes it's just around having those conversations."
Other parts of the initiative had included a career fair, "big brother and sister" mentoring.
Ukelele lessons, upgrades to the school field and providing bikes for children to learn to ride on are part of the scheme.
A paved bike track had also been built on the school grounds. That had been paid for by the council at a cost of $50,000 and was also available to the wider community.
The programme would now also be rolled out in four other low decile schools - Aorangi Primary, Malfroy School, Kaingaroa Forest School and Selwyn Primary.
Councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said it was "scary" to think of the statistical unlikelihood of children getting out of poverty as adults.
"So when we wonder why we see people sitting in the park and smoking their whatever-they're-doing and don't move out of deprivation, that is the end result".
Councillor Raj Kumar enquired as to the cost of the programme, and council chief executive Geoff Williams said it had the primary cost had been staff time, but the direct cost had been $10,000, which he described as "quite minimal when you look at the outcomes of this programme".
Outside the meeting, a council spokeswoman said the staff costs were for a part time staff member working 30 hours a week, with about 80 per cent of that time dedicated to the project.
"The $10,000 was for a contract to provide an independent evaluation of the programme and this came from the Strategy operating budget."
Speaking to the Rotorua Daily Post, Sunset Primary School principal Eden Chapman said the impact of the programme had been "night and day".
Before, children had often stayed inside at lunchtimes on laptops as there wasn't much to do otherwise.
"The field didn't even have rugby posts … they were just sitting around trying to get through the day."
Having various activities on offer at the school meant there were fun things to look forward to outside of the more challenging school work, and it also meant incentives were in place for good behaviour.
Chapman also in part attributed an approximate 20 per cent increase in attendance on the first day of school for the year to the programme.
Other factors were school lunches and stationery provided via central government initiatives.
In previous years the first day of the school year had been around 65 to 70 per cent. In 2020, it was "at least 90, maybe even 95 per cent".
"Because they wanted to come, they were looking forward to it."
WHAT ARE THE FOUR WELL-BEINGS?
In May 2019 the Local Government (Community Well-Being) Amendment Bill was passed into law.
It reinstated the four aspects of community well-being - social, economic, environmental and cultural into the Local Government Act, which had been removed by the previous National government.
A Local Government NZ release from the time stated while councils had "largely continued to deliver" across those four areas, the amendment had provided "official restoration" of the principle.
LGNZ president Dave Cull had said the reinstatement acknowledged local government had a "broader role in fostering liveable communities, than simply providing 'core services'."