Principal welcomes council child poverty initiative


9 November 2018

Sunset Primary School principal Niels Rasmussen says a new scheme aimed at relieving child poverty in Rotorua has great potential.

The Rotorua Lakes Council has announced it is leading a new child equity programme aimed at providing children with access to extra-curricular activities and experiences to boost health and well-being.

Neils, whose school is in one of the country’s most deprived suburbs, welcomed the scheme, according to a statement.

“This is a great way for the Fordlands community and the school and the council to bring together people and agencies to support and increase opportunities for the equity for our students and children.”

He says the key to the programme’s success will be working closely with the community.

“I’m really hopeful. If children are involved in [for example] a sports team and have success in that team, it breeds success in other areas like at school. It is so beneficial. I’m really excited about the way this programme can open doors across the board.”

The idea behind the scheme is that helping lift health and wellbeing can have life-changing implications into adulthood.

Sunset Primary has agreed to be the first school to work with council to co-design a programme tailored to its students and community.

The proposal received support from yesterday’s Rotorua Lakes Council’s Strategy, Policy and Finance committee and will go to the council meeting for approval later this month.

Mayor Steve Chadwick said in the statement that it was great to see the support around the committee table at the meeting.

“We want Rotorua to be a place for everyone but that’s not currently the case for all in our community and we need to address the barriers to full participation that exist for our most vulnerable.

“Simple things can have a very big impact, and this would be a proactive, preventive approach to breaking the poverty cycle and the long-term implications of that,” Mayor Chadwick says.

This proposal recognises the potentially life-changing benefits of children and their whanau participating in and being connected to their communities and the activities that are available.

“There is a cost to inequity, for both individuals and society, and there will be some very simple things that can be done to make a significant and tangible difference, she said.

The council will work with school communities, local iwi, government agencies the philanthropic and private sector groups to co-design a programme intended to ensure that all local tamariki have access to activities and experiences which enhance health and wellbeing through positive experiences and connections that can have life-changing results.

Part of the programme would focus on Council services, facilities and activities/vents to consider how barriers to access can be removed. A successful Hutt City model provides free access to public pools; free internet, book borrowing and printing at libraries and free transport for educational trips within the Wellington region. The Hutt City model also involves corporate and private partner contributions and putting in place mentors for children.

Figures provided show that 41 per cent (4323) of Rotorua children aged up to nine years of age (10,389) live in areas with a deprivation rating of 9-10.  These children are living in real material hardship and many are going without basic needs, the council said, adding that three out of five tamariki living in poverty stay there for life.  The majority are Māori.

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