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A new group has been launched to tackle child poverty in the Western Bay of Plenty.

A Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) for the region was launched today in Tauranga with support from SociaLink, the Western Bay’s umbrella group for social service providers and community organisations. About 20 people attended, largely from social service agencies.

CPAG works to eliminate child poverty in New Zealand through research, education and advocacy. It has over 4000 members and supporters across the country, including academics, doctors, teachers, health workers, community workers and others concerned about the high numbers of children living in low income families.

Executive member of CPAG for Western Bay of Plenty, Alan Johnson, says while child poverty could be eliminated completely in a country like New Zealand, too many children don’t have the basics.

“CPAG speaks out on behalf of the tens of thousands of children in New Zealand whose meagre standard of living compromises their health, education and well-being,” he said.

CPAG has regional networks in Whāngarei, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson and Dunedin. It is funded by grants from charitable trusts and donations and receives no public funding.

It provides research about the causes and effects of poverty on children and their families, and informs the public, policy makers, media and politicians of policy changes needed to reduce child poverty.

“We are building a group of people here to advocate for children’s rights and child poverty in the Western Bay,” Johnson said. Well-organised direct activism could make a difference, he said, describing a protest in Auckland where 1000 people arrived to sleep in their cars to protest the lack of housing.

“Because of the demographic and relative wealth here, children’s issues are often overlooked, but we have unidentified poverty in this area. It’s one of the most serious issues facing New Zealand.

“For us it’s about public discourse. We need to have the interests and concerns of children locally talked about.”

CPAG’s main concerns were housing, income support and health, he said.

The group will meet again in December to plan the organisation’s first project for the Bay of Plenty.