Put chil­dren first, lobby group tells politi­cians

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By ROSE CAW­LEY

Politi­cians, par­ents, teach­ers and prin­ci­pals dis­cussed how to make Kiwi kids’ fu­ture a bright one at Pon­sonby Pri­mary on Au­gust 6.

The fo­rum was or­gan­ised by Tick for Kids, a group aimed at im­prov­ing kids’ lives. In the lead-up to the elec­tion, the multi-agency cam­paign en­cour­ages vot­ers to think about young­sters’ ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, health­care, af­ford­able homes and re­duc­ing poverty re­lated dis­eases.

Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Hekia Parata re­ceived a prickly re­cep­tion from the crowd. Other panel mem­bers in­cluded Labour list MP Jacinda Ardern, Green list MP Denise Roche, In­ter­net Party can­di­date Miriam Pier­ard and NZ First list MP Tracy Martin.

The crowd grilled can­di­dates over party pol­icy and how it will im­pact on chil­dren.

For­mer chil­dren’s com­mis­sioner Ian Has­sall, from Ep­som, has been in­volved in ini­tia­tives like this one since the idea sprung up. He says this lat­est and strong­est re­it­er­a­tion will hope­fully act as a tip­ping point for ac­tion.

‘‘The whole idea of Tick for Kids is not to go through a whole shop­ping list of so­lu­tions be­cause they are al­ready there.’’

It is about fo­cus­ing on govern­ment pol­icy, po­lit­i­cal will and chang­ing the New Zealand mind­set, he says.

‘‘When all of the dif­fer­ent things are be­ing dis­cussed – law and order, and the econ­omy, right up there with those topics should be what are we go­ing to do about en­sur­ing all our chil­dren do as well as they can.’’

Has­sall says 27 per cent of New Zealand chil­dren live in poverty, which is 285,000 chil­dren or 1 in 4 of our kids.

This is no new is­sue, he says; the elderly which now make up 3 per cent of those liv­ing in poverty, faced a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion.

‘‘Im­me­di­ately af­ter the sec­ond world war and some decades af­ter that old peo­ple had a pretty poor run and a lot of them were liv­ing in squalor.

‘‘If that can be fixed then surely chil­dren can be pulled out of poverty as well.’’

Mana Ririki, which ad­vo­cates for the elim­i­na­tion of Maori child abuse, is one of more than 30 groups back­ing the cam­paign.

Ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor An­ton Blank says politi­cians are guided by pub­lic opinion.

‘‘If you look at some­thing like mar­riage equal­ity, we saw a lot of politi­cians shift their po­si­tion be­tween civil union and the mar­riage equal­ity bill and I think that was be­cause there was a re­ally big change in pub­lic opinion. We are try­ing to cre­ate the same kind of so­cial change in favour of New Zealand chil­dren.’’

Chil­dren first: For­mer chil­dren’s com­mis­sioner Ian Has­sall at the Tick for Kids fo­rum at Pon­sonby Pri­mary School.

Un­spo­ken.

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