Achieving NZ's child poverty targets will reduce rates to some of 'lowest' worldwide - Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand's child poverty rate will be "amongst the lowest in the world" when the Government achieves its targets set by the Child Poverty Reduction Act.

The Prime Minister answered the country's burning queries in a question-and-answer with the Guardian's New Zealand readers, covering a wide range of subjects including home-ownership, the climate crisis and immigration.

One question from Porirua resident Douglas addressed the Government's work on reducing the rates of child poverty in New Zealand.

"When is your government going to make the transformational change to child poverty that you promised?" the 75-year-old asked Ardern via the Guardian.

Ardern reiterated the Government's commitment to halving child poverty in a decade, saying the Child Poverty Reduction Act requires the Government "to set targets and report on child poverty" annually.

"This is huge as it creates a framework for ongoing action and accountability by this and all future governments. Achieving our targets will mean our child poverty rates are amongst the lowest in the world," Ardern answered.

"Every step we take to get closer to our targets represents a tangible improvement in the day-to-day lives and future opportunities of those families and children who are no longer in poverty."

Yet the Government's target of halving child poverty within 10 years left campaigners "a little underwhelmed" when the official targets were revealed in May.

The Government's aim to lift 130,000 children out of poverty would reduce the rates of impoverished Kiwi kids from 23 percent in 2018 to 10 percent in 2028. 

"That's not much of a target really, when you think about a decade and half a childhood... we're a little underwhelmed," Child Poverty Action Group co-convenor Alan Johnson told The AM Show back in May. "It's not ambitious enough."

Ardern also reiterated the addition of the $5.5 billion Families Package in 2017, which comprises of Working for Families tax credit increases, a payment for newborns called Best Start and a winter energy payment for beneficiaries and pensioners.

"In Budget 2020, we indexed benefits to wages, and increased the amount that beneficiaries can earn before their benefit reduces. These changes are expected to lift between 42,000 and 73,000 children out of poverty," she said.

According to the Child Poverty Monitor 2019, 148,000 children live in households experiencing material hardship - meaning their family is unable to afford six or more items that most people regard as essentials, such as enough food, warm clothes and sturdy shoes. As of 2018, 254,000 children in New Zealand live in low-income households.

In 2017, a UNICEF report placed New Zealand 34th out of 41 developed countries for child wellbeing.

Johnson said at least $3 billion needs to be spent boosting benefits and Working for Families to fix child poverty - every single year. Despite the price tag, he claimed it would be easier than building 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in a decade.

In her answer to Douglas, Ardern said the impact of many of the Government's investments "isn't captured" in current child poverty reporting.

"The release of new Statistics NZ data in early 2020 will be the first indication of the progress we're making in reducing child poverty," she said.