NZ Election 2020: Jacinda Ardern 'proud' of child poverty progress, despite lack of evidence

Despite official measures showing mixed results at best, Jacinda Ardern has named the Government's progress on reducing child poverty as the thing she's most proud of in her first three years as Prime Minister.

Ardern clashed with her National Party opponent on child poverty in Thursday night's TVNZ leaders debate, the last to be held before the final day of voting on Saturday. 

"If you look at kids living in material hardship, which means they can't get to a doctor and things like that, are 4100 more than when she took office," Collins said.

"If you talk to the food banks they will tell you things have got worse, they haven't got better... it has just got worse."

Ardern said Collins was "completely incorrect", and that seven out of nine child poverty measures improved under her leadership.

"No one for a moment would believe we could fix an issue that takes decades to build in three years... I'm not done yet."

On The AM Show on Friday morning, Ardern said she had been disappointed with the speed of progress on a number of issues over the last three years - it took time to "bed in" the new Government, and often consensus was slow to come to, having to satisfy not just Labour but also NZ First and the Greens. 

"Having said that, I'm proud of what we did in spite of that. We've made some great progress," she told host Duncan Garner.

"I am proud of what we've done on child poverty - it's one of the things I get critiqued on a lot, but actually the reason I stand proudly on that is because I know what we did and I know it's made a difference."

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

AAP FactCheck in September looked into Ardern's repeated claims about making progress on seven of the nine child poverty measures, and found it to be misleading - the improvements were slight enough to be statistically meaningless, and only two measures appear to be consistently getting better over time. 

Statistics NZ said data collected in the Household Economic Survey of more than 20,000 households found over the year from June 2018 to June 2019:

  • "rates of low-income have generally declined... but most of these decreases are not statistically significant"
  • "material hardship rates show no significant change"
  • "the rates for Māori and Pacific peoples are higher across most measures compared with the national average".

Ardern said time will prove her correct.

"The unfortunate thing is - and this is just the reality of this area of work - the way that we measure progress has such a time lag. We still don't actually have a full picture of what we did over the last term - we've only got the first 18 months, anda  significant amount of what we did was in the latter half of the term." 

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: Getty

Quizzed on the growing number of people staying in emergency accommodation such as motels, Ardern said it was better than living in a car and said the Government was building more housing. 

"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm satisfied... but nor was anyone ever going to fix a housing crisis in three years."

Asked if she could fix it in six, Ardern said she would "give it a damn good shot".

On current polling, Labour looks likely to form a Government either alone or with the Green Party - current coalition partner NZ First remain a longshot at around 2-3 percent, below the 5 percent threshold. While she's happy to work with them again, Ardern hinted she wouldn't mind if they were gone.

"If you've got a spectrum from easy to hard, the smaller number of parties that you have, the easier it is. No question."

Tune in on Three and from 7pm on Saturday for Newshub's Decision 2020 election special.