English says new poverty reduction target was planned

Bill English stunned his opponent Jacinda Ardern and the crowd at last night's Newshub Leaders Debate - by pledging to lift 100,000 kids out of poverty within four years. 

Today, Bill English was adamant that it was planned, and not a spur-of-the-moment promise. 

"It was a great opportunity to be able to announce that target," he said. 

But there's not much detail on how he'll do it. 

He says that measures announced in May's Budget will lift the first 50,000 kids out of poverty and another package aimed at families in years to come will get similar results.

"If we can get elected, within two or three years, we can have another crack at the next 50,000 children and getting them out of poverty," he said on Monday evening. 

All up, that's two-thirds of the 155,000 Kiwi kids currently living in a state of material deprivation without proper clothing, food, school books, or a warm dry home. 

His new target blindsided opponent Jacinda Ardern, who says "We've been asking for that for nine years, and that's the issue." 

Ms Ardern said "I would have liked it sooner. I would like more detail on it. But ultimately we should all be aspiring to reducing child poverty in New Zealand."

UNICEF's Vivian Maidaborn believes the pledge is genuine.

"It's not empty. I think Bill English has thought about it hard," she said. 

But she's questioning the timing. "This announcement from National has come really quickly, after a long time of them refusing to set a target."

Ms Ardern agrees, saying "I would have liked to have seen this more than two weeks out from an election."

Even the opposition welcomed Mr English's poverty pledge. But the lack of information around it is surprising given National often questions Labour for announcing policies that have little detail.