Beneficiaries targeted for Chch work

"The Government also acknowledges the scheme may create equity issues with other regions...
"The Government also acknowledges the scheme may create equity issues with other regions suffering labour shortages but we consider Canterbury is a special case" - John Key
Prime Minister John Key used a pre-Budget speech yesterday as another vote-buying exercise in Christchurch, promising $3.5 million to attract about 1000 beneficiaries to move to the city for work.

The ''$3k to Christchurch'' involves Work and Income promoting job opportunities in Christchurch and surrounding districts to beneficiaries outside the region.

A lump-sum, one-off $3000 payment would be provided to beneficiaries interested in moving to Christchurch or surrounding districts who gain a confirmed job.

To be eligible, a beneficiary would need proof of a confirmed full-time job offer of at least 30 hours a week and for more than 91 days - outside the Government's 90-day work trial period.

Mr Key said the rebuild of Christchurch created opportunities for beneficiaries who were seeking work.

''There is no doubt the rebuild is creating employment in many sectors. The area of greatest labour growth in the Canterbury region has been in the construction sector which has increased its workforce by 90% since the earthquakes.''

But labour market growth had not been confined to construction, he said.

There were opportunities in hospitality, retail and other areas.

The unemployment rate in Canterbury was the lowest in the country at 3.4% in the December quarter.

The same survey showed male unemployment was 2.3%.

As at March this year, there were fewer than 3000 beneficiaries with full-time work obligations in Canterbury and slightly fewer with part-time obligations.

Outside Canterbury, there were about 19,000 beneficiaries required to be available for part-time or full-time work in the 18-24 age group, Mr Key said.

The prime minister acknowledged there was a shortage of accommodation in Christchurch but said the Government was working to help alleviate that.

Housing Minister Nick Smith recently signed a housing accord with the Christchurch City Council aiming for a collaborative approach to resolving housing-related issues in the city.

That included boosting the supply of temporary, affordable and social housing.

Some large employers were also providing accommodation for workers for short periods during the rebuilding.

In addition, beneficiaries might have other options such as staying with relatives or friends.

''The Government also acknowledges the scheme may create equity issues with other regions suffering labour shortages but we consider Canterbury is a special case,'' Mr Key said.

Of the $40 billion needed to rebuild Christchurch, the Government's share has been increased to $15 billion and could be further increased in next week's Budget 2014.

The Government needs to retain the party vote in Christchurch to ensure re-election and Mr Key this week appointed Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner to Cabinet in another show of support for the city.

In a separate announcement, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce announced $20 million would be spent in Budget 2014 for an extra 6000 apprentices.

The Apprenticeship Reboot programme was experiencing continual high demand.

Eligible apprentices or trainees who signed up for training had been able to apply for a subsidy of $1000 towards the cost of tools and one-off course costs, or $2000 for those in priority trades. Employers were also eligible for an equal payment.

The Government extended the available places from 10,000 to 14,000 in December to keep up with demand, Mr Joyce said.

The $20 million brought total funding for the scheme to $69.4 million and the total number of places to 20,000.

The Apprenticeship Reboot was proving successful in getting more apprentices started, especially in the priority trades needed for the rebuilding of Christchurch and the housing construction boom in Auckland.

''The Government's ongoing investment in the Apprenticeship Reboot will benefit Christchurch, the wider economy and thousands of New Zealanders whose training will lead to higher wages and better living standards for them and their families,'' Mr Joyce said.


$3k to Christchurch

• Beneficiaries will not be required to provide proof of costs.

• The money will be paid in one lump sum and it will be non-taxable and exempt from any income and asset tests.

• In most circumstances, the payment will be non-recoverable but situations where it may have to be repaid will be for cases like misconduct leading to dismissal.

• The offer will be open to people of all ages who are on benefits but with a focus on those aged 18-24.


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