Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor said today that he intended to open the Childhood Obesity seminar as planned tomorrow, despite a public argument between health groups and the advertising industry over which side was right in its approach to the problem.
Obesity was an important issue for New Zealand, and it was vital it be discussed in as many forums as possible, Mr O'Connor said.
He said he was disappointed that a number of health groups have decided to boycott a conference in Wellington tomorrow because of the way it was organised.
"I agreed to host this seminar because of the growing concern about the problem of childhood obesity in this country and the considerable health risks that come from it. That does not mean I endorse everything that people are going to say at the seminar ? far from it. It means that I want everyone with a perspective to have the opportunity of presenting their views.
"This is a major public health issue that needs to be addressed. I believe that the fast food industry and the advertising industry play a key role in this issue and have viewpoints that need to be aired. I also believe that public health groups have substantial expertise and knowledge that should contribute to and shape the debate.
"I see this seminar as an excellent opportunity for these groups to get their message across, clear and undiluted, to some of the major advertising and food retail businesses in this country.
"For myself, it is another opportunity to spell out the Government's message ? obesity, particularly children's obesity, is a priority for this Government and all New Zealanders to deal with. "
Mr O'Connor said he encouraged health groups to read his speech notes which would be delivered at 9am tomorrow.