MUST READ: Nikki Kaye – playing politics with children’s health




It is a given that most politicians will do whatever it takes to win voters to get elected. It’s pretty much why their reputation is often at the same level as telemarketers and sex-workers (which, fair to say, is a slight on sex workers and telemarketers).

The responsibility for our perceived untrustworthiness of politicians is generally laid directly at their feet, when they often say things that are;

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  • a manipulation of facts/statistics
  • cherry-picks facts, omitting the whole picture
  • promises that are eventually watered-down or dumped entirely (eg, as with National’s policy to include agriculture in the ETS scheme in 2008, 2014, and 2015
  • convenient “memory lapses”
  • an outright, obvious lie

Our previous prime minister, John Key, could be flexible with the truth – and the public knew it.

The latest piece of self-serving political grandstanding came recently from National MP, Ms Nikki Kaye.

Usually one of National’s more sensible and mature MPs, she took a swipe at Green Party MP, Gareth Hughes’ call to restrict unhealthy foods sold in schools and instead opt for healthier options;

“Last year we saw 29,000 kids have their teeth pulled, obesity is going up – we are facing an epidemic – and our schools are still selling pies and cokes and chips and lollies.

I think we’re a food bowl in New Zealand. We could be providing nutritious, affordable food for every kid.”

Ms Kaye’s response was to drag out the old “Nanny State bogeyman;

“We need to acknowledge the world’s moved on since 10 years ago, so we need to acknowledge many more schools are providing healthy options and it is a bit nanny state.”

Her snide dismissal of addressing this crisis in our children’s health flies in the fact that obesity is a growing epidemic in our country. According to a recent statement from the Ministry of Health;

New Zealand has the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD, and our rates are rising. Almost one in three adult New Zealanders (over 15 years) is obese, and one in ten children.

Ministry of Health statistics show a grim increase in our obesity levels – including for our children;

Adult obesity statistics

The New Zealand Health Survey 2017/18 found that:

  • around 1 in 3 adults (aged 15 years and over) were obese (32%)
  • 47% of Māori adults were obese
  • 65% of Pacific adults were obese
  • adults living in the most deprived areas were 1.6 times as likely to be obese as adults living in the least deprived areas*
  • the adult obesity rate increased from 27% in 2006/07 to 32% in 2017/18.

Child obesity statistics

The New Zealand Health Survey 2017/18 found that:

  • around 1 in 8 children (aged 2–14 years) were obese (12%)
  • 17% of Māori children were obese
  • 30% of Pacific children were obese
  • children living in the most deprived areas were 2.1 times as likely to be obese as children living in the least deprived areas*
  • the child obesity rate increased from 8% in 2006/07 to 12% in 2017/18.

The increase in child obesity occurred under National’s watch and was not helped by then-Minister of Education, Anne Tolley and then-Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, who scrapped the previous Labour government’s Healthy Food in Schools policy;



By 2038, an estimated two million New Zealanders will be obese, according to Otago University. The additional pressures on our health system with increased diabetes, heart disease, etc, will be staggering.

Even National could no longer ignore our worsening obesity epidemic. In October 2015, the Ministry of Health launched a Childhood obesity plan. The policy appeared largely ineffective as obesity levels grew.

And even Nikki Kaye understood the looming crisis, when she stated in April last year;



“Physical inactivity cost New Zealand’s health care system over $200 million in 2013 and some research indicates that around 20 per cent of young Auckland children are overweight.

The Education Minister needs to continue the Auckland Education Growth Plan which was being worked on by the previous Government and was due to be considered by Cabinet last November. It is important to look at the work done so far to factor in potential opportunities around sport and recreational infrastructure.

We must prioritise sport and recreation in our communities and Auckland Council and the Government must front up with more funding to support Auckland’s sporting infrastructure.

Nowhere does she address the grim reality that we are feeding crap “food” to our children.

National MPs would be hysterical with rage if marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, etc, was made legally available to children. Not for one moment would they accept the nonsensical proposition that banning children from accessing such drugs (whether legal or not) would be  “Nanny Statish”.

But when it comes to crap food with high levels of salt, fat, and sugar – then it’s acceptable to National MPs. It becomes a “free choice” issue. That’s despite a supposedly intelligent, well-informed person like Ms Kaye being cognisant of the fact that “… around 20 per cent of young Auckland children are overweight”.

Referring to plans to combat rising obesity in our children should be a social responsibility, just as preventing drink-driving and smoking in restaurants and bars became the norm.

Labelling anything that reduced child obesity as “nanny state” is reprehensible because it plays politics with our young people. Invoking “nanny state” to win a few votes is self-serving.

A politician who casually parrots and throws around catch-phrases like “Nanny State” exploits the health of our children for personal gain.

Ms Kaye should reconsider her stance on healthy food in our schools. Or consider changing professions to something equivalent to political activity – but not likely to be a liability to our children’s health.

Try telemarketing.







Bay of Plenty Times: So, just how trusted is your profession?

Scoop media: ‘Carbon neutral’ policy added to scrap heap

Interest: National would phase in ETS obligations for transport, electricity, industrial sectors; Will review Agriculture in 2014, will only put it in if technology to help is there

NZ Herald: Agriculture ruled out in Emissions Trading Scheme review

TVNZ: Defiant John Key defends Cameron Slater texts: ‘I haven’t been caught out’

Mediaworks/Newshub: Public sides with Dotcom in poll

Mediaworks/Newshub: Green Party calling for return of food in school guidelines to keep kids healthy

Ministry of Health: Obesity

Ministry of Health: Childhood obesity plan

Ministry of Health: Obesity statistics

NZ Herald: Greasy school tuckshop food on way out

Fairfax/Stuff media:  Schools’ healthy food rule scrapped

NZ Herald: Two million obese New Zealanders by 2038, study finds

National: Council & Govt must prioritise sport infrastructure

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

National’s Food In Schools programme reveals depth of child poverty in New Zealand

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?






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  1. Well said. As usual, the politicians show their ignorance. Ignoring the very real fact that “crap food”is much cheaper than “healthy”food, and that they refused – more than once – to remove GST off fresh fruit and vegetables. They are many people out there who cannot afford decent food.
    They are many mums and dads out there working their butts off, trying to make ends meet, and provide for their kids the best they can, but, at the end of a long, hard day, who really feels like cooking up a decent meal? Not me, for one.
    So, convenience food takes over, with all of its additives and what-not.
    There is also the oft-over looked point that kids are not as active as they used to be. When we were kids, we played outside, making push-carts, building and flying kites, playing tag or bullrush with our mates. Nowadays, kids are much more likely to be inside, playing on their game consoles; only their fingers and thumbs getting any exercise. Before people start screaming that it’s all the parents fault”, do remember that mum and dad are out trying to make enough money to survive in a tough economic environment, leaving kids home unsupervised.
    Which brings us back to the politicians . . .

    • Yes, unfortunately, freerange childhoods are long gone. Neighbourhoods are just not like that any more.
      However, that school milk was absolutely disgusting in the days before refrigeration, and it sat out at the gate until the crates were brought in at playtime by the monitors.

  2. Don’t forget Frank that ex National MP Katherine Rich appears to be creating food policy from afar for the National Party.

  3. The sickly Nikki Kaye doesn’t have the elocution to telemarket. She does have that unusual look about her though, a mix of mange and meth dealer, which is perfectly suited to television infomercials (an uninteresting face the gullible are simultaneously repulsed by and identify with). No, in terms of true compassion and love and protection for our children, Jacinda and the Labour government is the only choice. Globally we see America using Venezuelan food aid as a political tool to beat starving people into even more submission, to turn the people against each other. Only the sickest, creepiest government imaginable would use the essentials of human life this way.

  4. A spot on analysis of a topic that is critical to the nations wellbeing.The National Govt scrapping of the healthy food rule must be one of the lousiest acts that National perpetrated in a litany of despiceable acts! Well done frank.

    • +1 Pete

      In the name of “free choice”, the Nats have permitted obesity in our children to increase. They could easily have kept the Healthy Food in Schools policy, it wouldn’t have cost us a cent. Instead, our kids are getting fatter on sugar and processed foods and the eventual cost to taxpayers will be astronomical when diabetes, heart disease and other other ailments hit us.

      This is the lousy outcome when ideology supercedes common sense.

    • One of the other lousiest policies, given Nationals cry wolf on a CGT, was the paper boy tax. So with measured comment I say fuck off Simon. Judging by the latest poll I think thousands of others are saying the same thing.

  5. Healthy food in schools…
    One of three meals a day for five days of the week.
    The one place where we can pry into lunch boxes and do a spot of ‘for your own good-ing’.

    And then they go home…

    Do ‘children living in poverty’ really sit at home with their fingers twitching over keyboards? Or do they go out and hang out? This is observable, surely?

    It’s always ‘Maori and Pasifika’ – yet they aren’t the only ones ‘living in poverty’ with working parents. They aren’t – and we know that.

    So what makes the purchase of soft drinks, processed foods, lollies etc a matter of status and pride in those communities? Other low income families also buy them. Why? They’re not thick, that’s for certain. Yet those items have some intrinsic value. Far more than fruit. Far more than sausages and potatoes and cabbage and other cheap tucker.

    Now – will it be crushed with the usual flock of pity stories and guilt tripping (colonialism and racist – you know the sort of thing)? Or will someone actually look at why families are buying those forms of cheap food and not others that are more healthful? And then develop ways to change the narrative – and make the new alternatives as attractive and affirmative as the old ones. First meet the ‘want’ – then meet the ‘need’.

    Bad teeth in little kids? No toothbrushes or even tooth twigs. Bottles being used a long time after weaning and they’re filled with fruit juice! because it’s been touted as ‘healthy’. Or good old Raro. Sippy bottles – the curse of juvenile teeth.

    Little fat kids? Sign of good health and good mothering. They’re ‘doing well’. Good eaters and not too picky. Who needs fuss at meal times? An ancient mothering story. If you don’t change that you can’t change the consequences.

    It just ain’t as simple as a wholesome, ‘proper’ meal a day, five days a week…

    • ” I t just ain’t as simple as a wholesome, ‘proper’ meal a day, five days a week…”

      Easy to say when you have a full tummy Andrea and know where/ when your next meal is coming from.

      Let them eat cake huh?

      Better at least a few healthy regular meals, 5 days a week, than nothing

  6. So we have become an unfit nation? Perhaps because Nazional only built motorways and highways, instead of investing in public transport and bikeways? That kids need to be dropped to school because the footpath is too dangerous to walk upon, as everybody else is dropping their kids at school? Sport is OK, but we don’t need to encourage competition, as it can rear its ugly head in the Hoskings of this world if not gently massaged. And is there really a shortage of sporting infrastructure? Sure we could get rid of the irresponsible golf courses that serve zero purpose, but in my neighbourhood in the mid west there are more ball parks than people that could occupy them. With public transport a small amount of walking is always required, and this may be enough to encourage other physical endeavours. And if schools cannot be responsible (as the nazional party has previously claimed that parents should control sugar intake hahahahahaha), then the government should surely step in to guide the menu? And where is the damn sugar tax? Howabout a hefty golf course tax, to cover the cost of people with nothing to do and the carbon impact of tree less, house less swathes of golf course?

  7. Nikki Kaye is the next leader of the National Party and she has been pitched as such for a long time although the left have had no idea. She’s always been seen to be in the running and you will see over the next month or so that it is her time.

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