Greens highlight child poverty

HIGH HOPES: Green Party co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei are hoping for unprecedented election results this year.
HIGH HOPES: Green Party co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei are hoping for unprecedented election results this year.

The Green Party is again rolling out the celebrity faces and quirky campaign stunts as it shoots for its best ever result in a week's time.

Whale Rider star and one-time Green candidate Rawiri Paratene yesterday joined co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman on a waka sailing around Auckland harbour.

Media were invited to sail on the waka, which was laid on for a group of students from a decile one South Auckland school who were involved in the party's opening broadcast statement.

Co-leader Metiria Turei said the children represented a group of society that was not understood by National.

''I don't think John Key understands this at all. He says that poverty is a problem depending on who you talk to. Well actually, poverty is a serious problem in this country,'' she said.

There were 275,000 children living in severe poverty and two out of every five of those children came from households with parents in work but whose pay rates were too low, she said.

''John Key can't be bothered to raise the minimum wage to even $15 an hour to make it possible for these families to put food on the table for their kids. He has no concept of the real lives lived. He has done his own visits to poor areas but does nothing to make a difference for those families.

''We have people like John Banks making bizarre statements about people from South Auckland - racist and horrible statements about people from South Auckland - and never seeing the communities that are working so hard to deal with the issues,'' Turei said.

The Greens have enjoyed record support during the campaign, with a series of polls putting the party over 10 per cent and on track for a clutch of new MPs.

Paratene, who stood for the Greens at the last election, said the trend had been for Green turnout on election day to fall away from projections.

''[But] I'm pretty confident it will hold up ... I think people have stopped thinking of the Greens as the crazy hippies and I people are becoming more and more conscious of environmental and social issues,'' he said.

He did not think the Greens would go into government with National after the election because its leader, John Key, was not interested in working with them.

''I think a lot of National supporters are quite interested in the National Government working out some kind of an arrangement with the Green Party, but I don't believe that the leader of the National Party is interested at all,'' Paratene said.

''I don't think that John Key will ever think of that unless he really needs to.''

National's finance spokesman Bill English yesterday said the Greens had ''big, big ideas about spending and borrowing and taxing''.

-Fairfax NZ