Momentum is building in Nelson for a campaign to call employers to pay the Living Wage of just under $20 an hour.
Union and community representatives met this afternoon to plan a campaign targeting what they call poverty wages.
A Living Wage Movement Aotearoa New Zealand spokesperson said so far more than 50 companies around New Zealand had become accredited as living wage employers.
National convenor Annie Newman said the idea was gaining momentum in Nelson, where the focus was on larger employers and public bodies which were supported by taxpayers and ratepayers.
Ms Newman said the Nelson and Tasman councils should step up and pay all workers and contracted employees a living wage.
She said that would benefit all communities in the area.
Local spokesperson for the Living Wage movement Kindra Douglas said more than 500,000 workers and 285,000 children in New Zealand lived below the poverty line.
She said two out of every five of those children lived in households where at least one adult was in full-time work or self employed.
She said Nelson was not exempt from the "appalling statistics" on poverty and inequality, and that pay in the Nelson-Tasman region was among the country's lowest.
"We will build a Living Wage Movement that calls for local businesses and candidates in the upcoming Nelson City Council election to support a Living Wage."
Ms Douglas said decent wages contributed to a flourishing local economy.
Ms Newman said today's meeting built on work done by Nelson communities last year to begin plans for building a Living Wage network.
She said communities needed to decide how they want to build a community around a common interest, which is how to alleviate poverty and inequality.
"That also involves encouraging businesses to step up and pay a living wage. It's voluntary but we like to focus on those big employers who can pay, and the publicly funded bodies.
"A lot of people have been talking about stepping away from the sunshine wages, but it will happen only because people want to do this.
"We don't actively promote this to employers - they've come to us and said they want to set new standards, which is $19.80 an hour, and that sets an example for other employers," Ms Newman said.
It was likely there would be a great deal of interest in the idea, particularly in the lead-up to the local elections, she said.