Many of the problems blamed on child poverty can be blamed on parents, Police Minister Judith Collins says.
Ms Collins was challenged at the Police Association's annual conference in Wellington today by a delegate, who said poverty was making law enforcement harder.
The delegate said his officers had been very busy with gangs, which he said were often filled with people who had experienced poverty as children.
The government's approach to child poverty was criticised in a recent United Nations report, as well as by opposition politicians.
Ms Collins responded by saying the government was doing a lot more for child poverty in New Zealand than the UN had ever done.
In New Zealand, there was money available to everyone who needed it, she said.
"It's not that, it's people who don't look after their children, that's the problem.
"And they can't look after their children in many cases because they don't know how to look after their children or even think they should look after their children."
Monetary poverty was not the only problem, she said.
"I see a poverty of ideas, a poverty of parental responsibility, a poverty of love, a poverty of caring."
As the MP for Papakura, she saw a lot of those problems in south Auckland, she said.
"And I can tell you it is not just a lack of money, it is primarily a lack of responsibility.
"I know that is not PC, but, you know, that's me."
Head Hunters training 70 recruits a month - Police Association
Police Association outgoing president Greg O'Connor, meanwhile, warned dozens of new recruits wanting to join the Head Hunters were travelling to Auckland each month.
The growth of the gang - one of the country's largest - showed poor efforts to clamp down on organised crime and gangs nation-wide, Mr O'Connor said.
"Their numbers have gone from 135 to 275 patched and prospects in just the last two years.
"I'm reliably informed that, each month, up to 70 new recruits front up in Auckland for what can only be considered in-service training - it sounds like their training budget is better than police's."
But Ms Collins rejected that efforts around organised crime and gangs had slipped.
She did not dispute Mr O'Connor's figures but disagreed that police were not working hard to reduce gang activity.
Recent big anti-drug operations showed quite the opposite, she said.