Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > Nikki Kaye – playing politics with children’s health

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;

  • 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?





This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 February 2019.



= fs =

  1. 16 February 2019 at 11:42 am

    Reblogged this on gitsbeat and commented:
    on the money

  2. 16 February 2019 at 11:45 am

    Thanks, Gitsbeat. *thumbs.up*

  3. 16 February 2019 at 11:46 am

    nice one frank .simple simon needs a brain .the rest of national have no shame .

    • 16 February 2019 at 1:01 pm

      Indeed, Gitsbeat.

      I’ve never ever heard a parent ever say that their child’s health and well-being was “nannyism”. It beggars belief that National politicians can use that phrase when it comes to the health of our nation’s children.

      One gets the impression (justified, I believe) that National’s priority is always to be re-elected into power. Nothing else matters. Even the health of our children is expendable.

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