'No more letters': Jesse Mulligan blasts Govt inaction on water-only schools

It's been a year since Jesse Mulligan called for New Zealand schools to ban sugary drinks, and he says he's disappointed at the lack of action.

"I'm kind of upset about this," he admitted to The Project on Monday.

"We started a campaign last year to encourage schools to go water-only, and I sort of though it would take off. We've heard from a couple of schools that have gotten in touch with us and said 'yeah we're doing it'.

"But to be honest most schools are in the same place they were this time last year and they haven't done anything about it. Which I can understand, teachers are busy, but it would cost them nothing."

Guest host Patrick Gower, who's been covering the country's dental crisis with Newshub's 'Because It Matters' campaign, said the dentists he's spoken to have all praised Mulligan's advocacy for water-only schools.

"They say it could make a real difference because it's seven hours a day that kids will get without sugar," he said.

"The Government should just make the schools do it. I asked the Government what's happening with this, they said they're writing letters to schools. I mean, that's not going to happen. It's the same with banning advertising on sugar, the Government says they're 'working with industry'.

"We know what's going to happen there, the same thing with putting warning signs on sugar. 'Working with industry' - this Government is hopeless when it comes to stopping what's happening with our kids' teeth and our adult teeth as well."

Newshub reported this week that 118,000 kids are missing their free dental check-ups, while almost half of adults don't go to the dentist, many because they can't afford it.

In an uncharacteristic moment of anger, Mulligan spoke directly to the Government and pleaded for them to address the problem more effectively.

"I must say to David Clark, Health Minister - seriously? Working with the industry to come up with guidelines to get people to eat less of the products created by the industry? You wouldn't get a cigarette company to come up with your anti-smoking policy. You wouldn't get a white supremacist to form your multi-culturalism policy. You've got to get the experts and the experts all agree what needs to be done.

"[It's] seriously time for action - no more letters, no more recommendations, water-only New Zealand schools."