Key makes child poverty a goal

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Lifting New Zealand children off the National Deprivation Index is one of the main goals next year for Prime Minister John Key.

He told the Otago Daily Times there were an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 children on the index, from 30,000 to 50,000 families regarded as materially poor.

There had been some debate about the number of poor in New Zealand, with some estimates that one in four children were in poor families.

That was probably too high and Mr Key regarded the ''absolute base'' for poverty to be in the 60,000 to 100,000 range.

Social housing was also going to be a priority for the Government, with Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett set to play a major role, he said.

Mr Key was in Dunedin yesterday for some private functions but also visited the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame for the first time.

The Prime Minister is known for his interest in sport and said the reason Jonathan Coleman had been appointed Health and Sports and Recreation Minister was because of the identified benefits of sporting activity and portion sizes in the reduction in obesity, a major problem for children in New Zealand.

Looking at photos in the hall of fame, Mr Key said the difference he picked between the photos of children in the 1950s and children now was more exercise and less processed food in the 1950s, along with no computer time.

The first referendum on changing the New Zealand flag would be held next year.

''I am focused on that issue. It is not the biggest issue facing New Zealand but it is important.''

Asked about the economy and the dairy industry being hit by falling farm gate payouts, Mr Key said dairying made up only 7% of the economy.

The tourist industry was strong and getting stronger, with growing numbers of Chinese visitors expected to arrive.

Forecasts now had the economy growing at 10% over the next three years and dairy prices were set to improve perhaps as early as next year, he said.

''We have a diverse economy, not only dairy and logs, and manufacturing had increased 23 months in a row.''


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