from the Christchurch Press 8 April 2000

    Mayors aim for 'zero' NZ jobless

    by Mike Crean

    Thirty-three New Zealand mayors are committed to a "zero waste of people".

    As the Mayors' Taskforce for Jobs forum wound up in Christchurch yesterday, the mayors set two main goals:

  • That by 2005 no-one under the age of 25 would be out of work.

  • That by 2009 everyone would have the opportunity for work or training.
  • Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner said the 33 mayors who attended the forum had struck a strong consensus.

    They agreed that partnerships of central and local government, private enterprise, and the community sector were the way forward.

    If "partnership" was the new buzz word, it was only replacing "competition", which had failed in the last decade.

    The mayors had risen above politics for what they considered the most pressing issue facing the country.

    "We are fed up with ideology and the Westminster style of argy-bargy," Mrs Turner said. "We must be issues-based. We must be pragmatic."

    Central government had been the missing link in boosting employment, Mrs Turner said.

    City and district councils, private businesses, and community groups had been working together in their regions but an essential partner had been lacking.

    "Central government was the missing link in the partnership," Mrs Turner said.

    The change of Government had signalled a change of attitude which gave her confidence that progress would be made on the job front.

    Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton, who spoke to the forum, said the last government had viewed unemployment as acceptable. His government said the opposite.

    Mr Anderton endorsed the call for partnership. The Government's $100 million fund for jobs would top up local and regional funds for programmes devised by people on the spot who knew the needs.

    He announced a $1.7m grant to a Southland agricultural and horticultural scheme to produce 20,000 new jobs. Southland interests had put up $2.5m. Every region had opportunities and ideas which would benefit in the same way.

    Mr Anderton said he and Prime Minister Helen Clark were "absolutely committed" to this sort of partnership.

    Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore, who initiated the forum, said much work in areas such as environmental enhancement and conservation waited to be done.

    "We have many projects and our people are sitting around unemployed," Mr Moore said.

    Hamilton Mayor Russ Rimmington said his council had been preoccupied in recent years with fighting electricity and roading reform and potential reforms to water and sewage services.

    "We took our eye off the ball of jobs, when we should not have had to," Mr Rimmington said.

    A draft copy of the forum agreement will be sent to the mayors for approval. They will then present it to their councils.

    Mr Anderton yesterday relaunched the Salvation Army's job training programme in Christchurch. He unveiled the organisation's new name of Employment Plus.

    The programmes have been run for 22 years, with more than 600 people a year taking part in courses in Canterbury.

    Mr Anderton said the price of unemployment - mental illness, depression, crime, and migration - had been "mind-boggling". Joblessness had badly affected young people and Maoris and Pacific Islanders.

    "In many ways we have got used to it, a bit like the road toll," he said.