The Porirua school where every student faces poverty

A Porirua principal is urging more change to help protect New Zealand's children who are living in poverty.

Every student at Daryl Aim's Natone Park School faces poverty and misses out on essentials like food and clothing.

"It tears at your heartstrings when you see kids that aren't fed," Aim said.

The decile one school provides its 98 students with clothing, breakfast, fruit, and milk.

"If we don't feed them, nobody will," he said.

He believes "everything in our power" needs to be done to help protect Kiwi children living in poverty.

It comes as the latest Child Poverty Monitoring Report revealed one-in-five Kiwi kids live in poverty.

Charity KidsCan says the story of poverty is similar across the country.

"This time last year, we were providing food to 30,000 kids, now we are providing to 40,000 kids," KidsCan general manager Leo Shen said.

More than 150,000 children are going without six or more essential items, like shoes, vegetables, and electricity.

The report was published on Wednesday, the same day Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared a climate emergency.

"It's great we can look at climate change, and so we should, but we don't need to debate child poverty. It is an emergency," Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft said.

Ardern said on Wednesday in response to why she hasn't declared a child poverty emergency that as a Government, its priorities are child poverty, housing, and climate change.

Last year, the Government set three 10-year targets to try and break the child poverty cycle.

While the report found some progress, it isn't enough, and COVID-19 could make it worse.

"COVID has changed the economic environment we are in," Ardern said.

Becroft says the pandemic can't be an excuse for stalling. Instead, he says COVID-19 is a reason to do more and he's calling for further benefit increases and a rent cap.

"I think some landlords are profiting out of the poverty of the most disadvantaged group in our community," he said.

At the report launch on Wednesday afternoon, a young audience member challenged Ardern over the housing shortage.

She gave a lengthy answer but pinpointed income as a key issue.

"We need people to have decent income so they can afford decent housing. We need that income not to be outstripped though by the cost of housing," she said.

Aim said parents are spending most of their income on rent.

"Paying your rent at $675 a week leaves nothing."