A Gisborne pouako says some tauira are leaving her kura to go to Australia with their parents due to the area's struggling economy.
Her comments follow a Salvation Army report, revealing that Māori who live in regional areas such as Gisborne and Northland are getting what it described as a 'bad deal', and the rohe are the most disadvantaged in the country.
Merearihi Whatuira, from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Uri ā Māui, said tamariki often turn up to school on an empty stomach.
She said poverty on the East Coast was driving families away in search of work in Australia.
"The economic downturn, especially in the rural areas, has had a greater impact on Māori and their families, and there are lots that are actually leaving the district and going to Australia.
"We've had a few families from this kura that have moved there rather than just being in survival mode on the benefit and living from payday to payday."
Ms Whatuira said the kura worked closely with parents to reduce the impact on tamariki's education.