Poverty needs to be political issue

If not, nothing will be done to fix it - Greens

TREVOR QUINN
Last updated 14:24 20/09/2012
Metiria Turei
JOHN SELKIRK/ Fairfax NZ
NEED FOR CHANGE: Metiria Turei taking part in the activities at Edmund Hillary School.

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If poverty is not made a political issue, then nothing will be done to fix it, the Green Party said at the launch of a campaign to end child poverty in Auckland today.

Party co-leader Metiria Turei and pupils and staff of Edmund Hillary School took their first steps in the 'Take the Step - Be a Champion for Children' campaign by putting their colourful footprints on a banner.

In the coming weeks they will take the banner to Parliament to highlight the issue.

School principal Kataraina Nock said she had been overwhelmed by the concern about the level of poverty in Auckland, after their school was the feature of a television interview recently.

"[People say] I didn't know that there was that level of poverty in our country. We've been supporting children in Uganda and we will continue to support them but now we want to know how we can help you."

More than 270,000 children live in poverty in New Zealand and more than 150,000 of those are the children of beneficiaries.

It is hoped the campaign will raise awareness and act as a catalyst for change.

"We can see from John Key and the National Party's total disdain for the issues around child poverty that if we don't make it a political issue then they will do nothing about the poverty issue,"  Turei said.

She is asking parents and Aucklanders to contact politicians to raise the issue.

The initial target of the campaign is winning support for Turei's bill to replace the in-work tax credit with a child payment for all children who need it.

Turei said the extra money generated would provide families with an extra $60 a week which would bring 100,000 children out of poverty. She said she believes the measure could be introduced quite easily and it is affordable.

She also said a tax free incentive on the first $10,000 of a person's income would make a big difference to the poor while only marginally affecting the rich.

"[The Government's] economic plan is to provide jobs in the medium term. In the meantime kids are hungry and cold and come to school without shoes and proper food.

"Why should these children be forced to wait for [John Key's] economic plan to deliver these magic jobs in the future? They need help now. The Government can choose to help these kids right now if they want to and they're choosing not to."

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