The Prime Minister is confident the number of Kiwi kids in material hardship will eventually decrease because her policies like free lunches in schools are "yet to show" full results.
But Opposition leader Simon Bridges is blaming a rise in children living in material hardship in New Zealand on the Government's "poor policy making decisions".
Jacinda Ardern, who handles the child poverty reduction portfolio, said the Government is "on track" to meet its child poverty reduction targets, despite new data showing "no significant change" in material hardship for kids.
The new data, published by Stats NZ on Tuesday, found that in the year ended June 2019, about one in eight New Zealand children lived in material hardship, and that there was "no significant change" since 2017.
Material hardship is defined as households that cannot afford specific items that most people regard as essential, such as eating fruit or vegetables, putting off a doctor visit or not being able to pay the electricity bill.
The number of Kiwi kids living in material hardship increased by 4100 from 2018 to 2019.
But because the Stats NZ survey asked respondents to consider their incomes over the July 2017-July 2019 period, the impact of the Government's Families Package was only partially captured in the statistics.
Ardern's statement said, "Policies already in place that will help to reduce material hardship - like free lunches in schools, cheaper visits to the doctors, nurses in schools, increasing school funding so parents don't have to pay school donations and scrapping NCEA fees - are yet to show through in the numbers."
The data also looked at other measures, such as how many Kiwi kids lived in households with less than 50 percent of the median disposable income after deducted housing costs, which saw an 18,400 decrease from 2018 to 2019.
With the Child Poverty Act 2018 requiring Stats NZ to report annually on a set of nine measures, there are many different ways to analyse the information.
Ardern's press statement was titled: "18,400 children lifted out of poverty."
By comparison, Simon Bridges released a statement titled: "20,000 more children in poverty under Jacinda Ardern."
The National leader's figure is based on the difference between 2017 and 2019 of the number of children living in households with income less than 60 percent of the median disposable household income before housing costs.
Neither Ardern nor Bridges mentioned Māori and Pacific people in their statements, who have higher rates of kids living in material hardship across most measures compared with the national average.
Ardern announced in 2017 the Governmenet would spend $5.3 billion over the following four years on a plan - its Families Package - to help low-income families and cut the child poverty rate nearly 50 percent.
The package comprised three core components: Working for Families tax credit increases, a new payment for new-borns called Best Start, and a new winter energy payment for beneficiaries and pensioners.
ACT Party leader David Seymour said the Prime Minister's commitment to reducing child poverty is "admirable" but that the "reality is she's completely failed to improve the situation of the poorest New Zealanders".
He said the cost of housing is the biggest barrier, and that the only way to solve that is to replace the Resource Management Act, free up land for development and allow the private sector to build more homes.