National's Nicola Willis defends uncosted poverty plan, says philanthropists will want to be part of it

Nicola Willis has defended National's uncosted poverty plan, saying New Zealand philanthropists will want to invest in it after proving it works.

The National Party launched its social investment policy on Wednesday, aiming to use early intervention to address issues in Kiwis' lives using a "start small and scale up" approach. 

However, the policy has copped criticism because it isn't costed, with Finance Minister Grant Robertson calling it "another unfunded promise from the National Party".  

National deputy leader and social investment spokesperson Nicola Willis told Rebecca Wright on Newshub Nation it will not be announcing the cost until next year so they can respond to the most updated financial numbers.

"What we are seeing at the moment is the economy is deteriorating very rapidly, the Government is continuing to spend a huge amount of money, the tax take keeps going up and we want to look at what's in place next year so that our plan is responsible," Willis said.

National plans to finance the Social Investment Fund by partly reallocating money not being spent well elsewhere and with investment from Kiwi philanthropists who believe in the fund. 

She said New Zealand philanthropists are motivated by changing people's lives and believe they will want to invest after National proves the fund is getting results.

"My blue skies aspiration is this: Imagine that fund was so successful and actually changing people's lives and demonstrating that some of our intractable social problems can be turned around if we are clever about it. Imagine if others said, 'That's working, I want to be part of it?' That's an aspiration worthy of having," Willis said.

She said she is unideological and it doesn't bother her to use private money as long as it can get results.

Willis said Kiwis are sick of "big promises" and "little delivery" so National is taking a "methodical" approach by identifying, funding and scaling-up social programmes that work.

An early intervention example Willis used was The Dunedin Study that found children who can regulate their emotions and speak well are less likely to end up in trouble. They developed an ENGAGE programme to help child behaviour and Willis said we should look at that programme and see whether it can be applied more widely.

"Social investment is about, ultimately, targeting earlier, using data, using evaluation and holding ourselves accountable for results," Willis said.

She said the fund's success will be measured by setting and funding targets and measuring where they are being achieved. 

But how much it will cost? We won't know until closer to election time.

Watch the full interview on Newshub Nation above.

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on TV3, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Newshub Nation is supported by NZ On Air.

Sign up to receive news updates

By entering your email address, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Newshub and its affiliates may use your email address to provide updates/news, ads, and offers. To withdraw your consent or learn more about your rights, see the Privacy Policy.