Newshub Leaders Debate: Bill English commits to poverty target

National leader Bill English committed to a target to bring 100,000 children out of poverty within the next three years, at tonight's Newshub Leaders Debate.

Mr English said that in April next year National's families package would bring 50,000 kids out of poverty.

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

"There's two things you need to do, one is lift incomes the other is get inside the very toxic mix of social issues which we know are family violence, criminal offending and long-term welfare dependency. We've got the best tools in the world now to support rising incomes with cracking the social problems."

When host Patrick Gower asked him if that was a commitment to a target to bring 100,000 children out of poverty, Mr English said yes.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern applauded the commitment from Bill English.

"I'm pleased about that because actually we've been asking him to do that for nine years," Ms Ardern said.

She added that Labour would put a child poverty reduction target into law, so that every Budget update had to include a child poverty measurement.

The leaders could not agree on how many children were living in poverty in New Zealand. Ms Ardern said there were 290,000 children living in poverty, which Bill English said was wrong - however he did not name a figure of his own.

"Let's just put those targets into law, then we stop this dispute and we get on with actually fixing child poverty in this country," Ms Ardern said.

"My entire reason for being in politics is to rid this country of child poverty."