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Mayor calls on central government to tackle child poverty

Anita Baker 2019

Porirua Mayor Anita Baker is urging party leaders to use the election campaign to outline plans to address the persistent and growing scourge of poverty in New Zealand, especially as it affects children.

"Child poverty was already a national crisis before Covid-19 and without urgent action, it risks turning into a catastrophe," Mayor Baker says.

Today, Porirua City Council released its Status Report 2020: Trends in the wellbeing of children and young people in Porirua.

"Whether it’s school attendance, oral health, hospital visits or social housing waiting lists, the report paints a grim picture. These indicators weren’t looking good even before Covid. The danger now is that they accelerate in the wrong direction," she says.

The Council began formally monitoring key economic, health, housing and social indicators in 2015 when its strategic plan placed the wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of decision-making.

"We set our wellbeing agenda four years before the Government's Wellbeing Budget," Mayor Baker says, "because we understand the long-term health and resilience of our community depends on keeping our kids safe, healthy, well-housed and in school. This isn’t happening in far too many cases."

She says that while councils don’t have the resources or authority to address most of these issues head-on, Porirua won’t shirk from its advocacy role.

"We want to shine a light on these pockets of deprivation to inspire meaningful action by central government. We don’t mean more well-intentioned talk. We don’t mean more pilot programmes or community consultation. We mean concrete plans with real money attached."

Citing the deterioration in oral health among five-year-olds, Mayor Baker says this was the direct results of rationing services.

"They took dental nurses out of schools and replaced them with a mobile service hub that hasn’t worked. When ideas fail, let’s ditch them. When they work, let’s fund and support them properly.

"The new Government will face an unprecedented array of challenges brought about by the Covid crisis. My plea to whoever wins: no priority should be more urgent than fixing the child poverty crisis in New Zealand."

20 Aug 2020