The New Zealand government was under pressure Tuesday to act on child poverty after its own Children's Commissioner announced he would lead a charity-funded annual measure of the problem.
The announcement came with the publication of the Children's Commissioner's Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Solutions to Child Poverty released a report, saying that about one in four, up to 265,000, New Zealand children lived in poverty.
It recommended urgent steps to achieve a significant reduction in child poverty and deprivation, including the creation of a comprehensive child poverty strategy, steps to address income poverty and improved access to affordable, good quality housing and healthcare.
Professor Jonathan Boston, EAG co-chair, said in a statement that while the government, business and communities had stepped up to address issues concerning child poverty, their actions were inadequate "given the magnitude of the challenge."
"We need a proper strategic approach, with specific poverty reduction targets and a clear monitoring and reporting framework," Boston said.
The EAG recommended a strategy that would include legislation to establish specific poverty reduction targets and a monitoring and reporting framework.
The report said the Office of the Children's Commissioner had formed a partnership with a charitable trust and Otago University to produce an annual measure and report on child poverty.
The opposition Green Party said the government's approach to child poverty risked becoming an "international embarrassment" with the Children's Commissioner seeking philanthropic funding of 500,000 NZ dollars (413,565 U.S. dollars) to fund the annual measure.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei called on the government to make a commitment like the British government's in 1999 to halving child poverty by 2010 and eliminating in by 2020.
"They've got targets for tackling crime and educational under achievement, but won't set targets for reducing poverty, which is the driver of almost all negative indicators. That is just stupid, " Turei said in a statement.
Children's spokesperson for the main opposition Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern, said New Zealand's lack of child poverty measures made it "an outlier" with the other OECD (the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) group of developed countries.
"Until the government takes just one baby step and creates a strategy to monitor child poverty, then better outcomes are unlikely," Ardern said in a statement.