A VERY SUCCESSFUL meeting was held with seven Ministers, a representative from Jim Anderton’s office and 12 Mayors from around the country. The Ministers were asked to speak to the Mayors for about 20 minutes addressing the following questions:
She said that the government was looking for a labour market strategy, which focussed on education but linked with other policies eg immigration, in an attempt to have a co-ordinated, holistic approach to labour market problem solving. This was a crucial part of the globalised marketplace as NZ would never compete on price but could on experience, quality of life and in niches.
In answer to a question from John Chaffey (Mayor of Hurunui) about the difficulty of attracting skilled people to rural areas the Minister said that the government was trying to provide a good working environment and attractive society with its labour laws but that there was a lot of rebuilding to do. We need to lift our identity in the world and develop a new brand, which reflected what our identity is now. Student loans were a problem and the government was interested in looking at ways to reduce the negative impacts of the scheme. Some types of bonding or write off of loans for working in particular areas may be possible. She also noted that it was important to try to keep records of where young people were and what areas they were working in to provide opportunities and jobs for them to come back to.
Frana Cardno (Mayor of Southland District) asked about protection of temporary workers in seasonal industries. In reply the Minister stated that the Employment Relations Act would not necessarily bring any change in this area, although if workers belonged to a union they would perhaps be able to build a better relationship within the industry and provide better minimum standards. She noted that when casual jobs were the main income, and people held down several jobs, enormous stress was placed on individuals, families and communities.
She noted the need to link with all institutions – health, education, marae etc. There were many examples of iwi development, with perhaps the most high profile being Whale Watch in Kaikoura, and there were many successful land incorporations which provided employment opportunities and education. Waitangi Fisheries was a successful Maori enterprise which provided education scholarships and assistance with management and environmental protection. Kahungunu had coined the phrase “commocial” – commercial activities which must also have a social outcome. There were also examples of successful investment in multi-owned land, although this was still a difficulty faced by many Maori landowners.
In response to a question from Claire Stewart (Mayor of New Plymouth) about seeing some employment opportunities come out of the settlement process, the Minister said that land incorporations often cut across hapu development, which created conflict and became a barrier for development often resulting in a loss of young people from the land. She further noted it was critical for Councils to develop relationships with mana whenua.
In response to a question from Alan Dick (Mayor of Napier) regarding the settlement of treaty claims, the Minister said she was in favour of settling individual or separate claims as long as the policy of fairness and justice was adhered to.
In response to a question from Jill White (Mayor of Palmerston North) about the Mayors’ role in local Maori initiatives, the Minister said that Mayors needed to work alongside the initiatives, eg the use of land for the establishment of kura. Councils could look at ways to remove barriers regarding the use of multiple owned land and council expertise could assist Maori with planning. She noted that in the past, development has happened separately and it was important to build collaborative arrangements which enabled Maori to feel more comfortable working with councils.
Pat O’Dea (Mayor of Buller) raised the issue of compliance costs for small business and asked if there was a way a mechanism could be developed for administration work to be undertaken by another agency. The Minister noted that local councils did this in the PEP scheme and that it was an idea that would be worthwhile following up.
Garry Moore (Mayor of Christchurch) asked whether the government would consider the idea of secondment of Community Employment staff to work with the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs as an indication of the deep investment needed in community development and partnership building. The Minister supported the idea in principle, saying he would support a new approach to community development, particularly in partnership with local authorities.
In response to a question from Claire Stewart (Mayor of New Plymouth) concerning Maori representation on council, the Minister noted that there needed to be more than token advisers to council. Council managers also needed to know their responsibilities. Jenny Brash (Mayor of Porirua) asked if the government was considering public works programmes. The Minister agreed in principle but emphasised the need to move beyond menial work and link training to opportunities.
Graeme Ramsey (Mayor of Kaipara) was concerned about the lack of Maori on Boards and Councils in his area. The Minister noted the importance of encouraging Maori onto Boards and Councils and to see the importance of public life.
She then spoke of the need to look at the youth situation as a whole and see what we can do to boost the development potential of our young people. The Minister focussed on the unacceptable rates of unemployment among young people as a consequence of past governments focusing on skills training –not job creation. There is little employment-based training for young people which has led to a redistribution of unemployment into training programmes. The workforce is often not a particularly rewarding place for young people, yet the quality of employment is vital to retention of staff.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs has 2 functions
1. Policy advice on issues which affect young people – youth employment is a key priority.
2. Youth Development Programmes.
Youth development is a process which recognises the need for a holistic approach. Unemployment is concentrated in groups of young people with particular experiences. A skills training approach is vital as programmes are not relevant to all. The youth development approach is a prerequisite for some. The youth development approach focuses on young people’s strengths. The prerequisites are a sense of identity, self-worth, and industry. Otherwise they very easily turn to gangs, drugs, and crime. The Ministry’s youth strategy, NZ’s first comprehensive youth development strategy will act as a blueprint of the government’s goals for young people and how we plan to achieve them. It will take a developmental and preventative approach to the issues facing young people and set out a range of integrated responses. Youth Services and Conservation Corps, are two very successful youth development programmes.
The Ministry is also currently looking at the working patterns of those under 16 and work so far shows there has been an increase in young people working. The proportion of full time students aged 16-25 employed part time rose from 13.4% in 1986 to 37.2% in 1996, but we know very little about the type of work or the impact on their lives. Hours ranged from 4-5 to 40 per week. There were also marked regional differences.
There are considerable gaps in the data so the Ministry is looking to improve the quality of the information available to government. The youth development approach will work alongside the skills training and job creation initiatives this government is putting in place. The first post school years are important for determining long-term attitudes not only about jobs but also about what makes sound adults.
The Minister confirmed that Conservation Corps and Youth Services programmes would stay with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and not go to the Department of Work and Income, as they were very focused on youth development and not just about training or placement.
Local government plays an important role in getting a professional approach to youth work, providing training and support for youth workers. In response to a question from Garry Moore (Mayor of Christchurch) about the possibility of working off the student loan, the Minister said there was a parliamentary inquiry into student loans, and bonding was a way to write off a loan or avoid accumulation. In reply to a further question relating to secondment of staff, the Minister said the Ministry was understaffed at the moment, and there was no way they could assist, but they were interested in working closely with the Mayors Taskforce.
The Ministry of Economic Development has awards of up to $10,000 to assist businesses to grow. The Minister has the delegation to oversee the awards which model or exemplify sustainable business practice. The awards will be made between January and June 2001. Councils could run local awards, which would lead into the national awards. She noted that there were special opportunities between the Environment and Economic Development ministries, particularly through the Ministry for the Environment’s sustainable development fund. The government is looking at an office to encourage major public works in a sustainable way.
There is a current concern with the Resource Management Act as there are no national standards or policy statements. There is a need to make progress on standards, particularly on pollutants. This is the eco end of the jobs machine and they are developing strategies in organics and other new job areas.
In response to a question from Garry Moore (Mayor of Christchurch) regarding rural tourism, the Minister noted the economic opportunities around the DOC estate that were not being used effectively – eg cycleways. There was also a difficulty for tourists in accessing this information. She was looking at “re-visioning the border” through working together with DOC, Biosecurity, and Customs, coming together selling NZ and providing better access for overseas tourists. There are many opportunities if we could coordinate our activities. John Chaffey (Mayor of Hurunui) spoke of the danger of the collapse of the visitor information network due to withdrawal of funding from Tourism NZ. The Minister noted his concerns and supported John’s request to ensure ongoing funding,
In response to a question from Tim Shadbolt (Mayor of Invercargill) about the sale of railway passenger services, the Minister agreed that it would be an exciting development if local government took over the railways, but there were many practical difficulties with the suggestion. However the government was committed to ensuring the forestry boom would be serviced by rail as this was 7 times more efficient than road.
Pat O’Dea (Mayor of Buller) was concerned about the narrow and restrictive view of the Department of Conservation. The Minister replied that the conservation strategy obliged the department to put conservation first and agreed that this was an area of conflict and tension.
John asked for feedback from Mayors as to how the structures were working, particularly if they were becoming too bureaucratic. Mayors were concerned that the structure still looked very Wellington-based, and in the past that had not been of much assistance at the grassroots level. As far as regional development was concerned John Leper stated that it was defined in terms of relationships and networks. There was a need to regenerate the networks and define the boundaries. Industry NZ would be flexible in its approach and with deadlines as it recognised the need to source local funds and act in the timeframe of local authorities. They would be able to help communities work through their proposals.
John emphasised the importance of letting the Minister (Jim Anderton) know what the local communities wanted, what the issues were and how they could work together on solutions. He was concerned that the employment strategy took no account of the macro issues – they were lobbying to that effect but had not seen any changes. This year for the first time the government was looking at a separate capital budget, which was a good beginning. There needs to be much more long-term thinking and more analysis by government and the public.
– MINISTER OF SOCIAL SERVICES AND EMPLOYMENT, ASSOCIATE MINISTER OF EDUCATION, RESPONSIBLE FOR COMMUNITY AND VOLUNTARY SECTOR
– ASSOCIATE MINISTER OF SOCIAL SERVICES AND EMPLOYMENT
In response to a request from Garry Moore (Mayor of Christchurch), that the Community Employment Group second five to six fieldworkers to work alongside the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, the Minister agreed in principle. Garry also stated that Mayors were advocates for the community sector and that there was a need to re-build and to provide stability within that sector. The Minister said that the next regional plans would be more ambitious and would be allocated more money to respond to the plans if they showed partnership with local communities and the ability to deliver the outcome.
The Minister also spoke of the importance of education and the need to get education costs down, to lift the demand for labour and look for job-rich growth.