Five to Thrive Campaign moves children's issues to top of election agenda

A joint initiative from four of New Zealand’s leading children’s organisations aims to put the needs of tamariki at the top of the agenda ahead of Election 2020, calling for politicians and all people in Aotearoa to support five vital ‘asks’ for children.


Launched today by Barnardos, Te Kahui Mana Ririki, Whānau Āwhina Plunket and Save the Children New Zealand, Five to Thrive identifies the five issues where urgent change is needed to ensure Aotearoa’s tamariki can thrive. The campaign asks politicians to commit to addressing these issues, and the voting public to support calls for urgent progress to be made.


The five areas of focus of Five to Thrive are: realising the potential of whānau Māori and reducing inequities; investing in children’s early years; an affordable and healthy home for every child; lifting children and their families out of poverty; and mental health support for every child and new parent that needs it.


“Five to Thrive offers a platform to focus on the biggest issues facing Aotearoa’s tamariki who cannot yet vote, but who are directly impacted by the political decisions made now and into the future,” says Save the Children Chief Executive Heidi Coetzee.


“Much of the current political discussion is centred around the economy, business struggles, Government support payments and debt in the face of COVID-19 and there is a real concern that critical issues affecting children and families will be missed. We’re asking Kiwi voters to make their tick work for children. 


“We know many families are struggling with the basics such as food and housing and for a number of families, COVID-19 has made their situation even worse with many losing their jobs and facing massive uncertainty.”


Dee Ann Wolferstan, Chief Executive of Te Kahui Mana Ririki, says that a focus on realising the potential of whānau, and listening carefully to the aspirations of all Māori tamariki and rangatahi continues to be urgently needed.


“We want to ensure that there are eyes on our tamariki. That is a key focus for Māori, keeping our tamariki safe and our whānau safe”, says Ms Wolferstan.


A Five to Thrive website – – has been set up to give voters more information about each issue and the reality facing Aotearoa’s tamariki and their whānau. The website includes more detailed policy asks and highlights how political parties are addressing children’s needs in their policies.


The campaign invites voters to keep children top of mind when voting, ask their local candidates about how they will put children first and share the campaign with friends and family on social media. Organisers have also reached out to politicians to highlight the importance of children’s needs.


“We know that in the first 1000 days of a child’s life we can make the difference of a lifetime, but that our health system has failed to deliver equitable outcomes for all tamariki,” says Plunket CEO Amanda Malu. 


“Whānau Āwhina Plunket has set a goal of achieving equitable outcomes for the families we serve.  We want to see our political leaders endorse the pathways set out in 2019 Hauora report and the alternative view of the Health and Disability Review final report to deliver better outcomes for Māori, and ensure that all of our precious tamariki have the best start in life.”


Barnardos Chief Executive Mike Munnelly says Five to Thrive builds on previous initiatives between the organisations – such as Every Child Counts – taking a collective approach to raising the issues facing Aotearoa’s tamariki and whānau.


“The five asks we are making of all parties and candidates are above party politics”, says Mr Munnelly.


“Election 2020 needs to have a sharp focus on the biggest issues that our children, whānau and communities are grappling with, which are magnified by COVID-19. The children and whānau we work with tell us the challenges they and many others face can be eased by all households having enough money to cover the basics and a bit more for tamariki, and being able to get good mental health support when it is needed. 


“These are two of the biggest issues facing children and young people and their families in New Zealand today,” says Mr Munnelly.


“The coalition government has made some really good progress on laying the foundations for change, but we now need to see how each party plans to take action to build on those foundations.  The economic impacts of Covid will span a generation. A key to responding to those future challenges is the contribution today’s children will make tomorrow. If there was ever a time to make sure they are able to thrive, it is now.”


To find out more about the campaign, go to




Spokespeople from all Five to Thrive campaign partner organisations are available for interviews.


Please contact:


Amie Richardson

PR Department

027 248 6478


Key facts: Issues facing children


  • The promise of Te Tiriti o Waitangi has not yet been delivered, with statistics across education, health, justice and housing showing inequitabale outcomes for Māori. Almost one in four (23.3%) of Māori tamariki live in material hardship – compared to one in nine Pakeha children.
  • 20% of children in New Zealand live in poverty after housing costs. Around 50% of families living in poverty are working families.
  • Around 30,000 children are hospitalised every year in New Zealand from preventable diseases due to poor housing.
  • The housing wait list for emergency housing continues to grow and is now at a record high of 14,869 as families are unable to afford high market rental prices.
  • The first 1000 days in a child's life are critical, 80% of brain development happens during this time, impacting the rest of their lives.
  • New Zealand children have the worst mental wellbeing rate and second highest rate of youth suicide among high-income countries. The recently published Youth2000 survey confirms worsening emotional and mental wellbeing among New Zealand teens in the last seven years, based on their direct feedback. Maternal suicide is the leading cause of maternal deaths in Aotearoa.