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    Garry Moore and Steve Maharey
    Maharey agrees to mayoral plan for community workers
    23 OCTOBER 2000


    The Government is preparing to allocate professional community workers to a group of mayors who have formed a taskforce to fight unemployment.

    Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey has agreed in principle to a request to allocate five or six hand-picked workers from the Labour Department's community employment group.

    Christchurch Mayor and taskforce convenor Garry Moore said the taskforce needed to work with the Government to reinvigorate the community sector of volunteer organisations, which had been hard hit in recent years.

    "It is not down on its knees - it is down on its face," he told Mr Maharey, the most senior of seven ministers who met the taskforce last week to explain Government plans to boost employment.

    Mr Moore, who helped to set up the community employment group in 1989, said he believed it had become too tied to national programmes rather than focusing on the practical needs of communities.

    He invited Mr Maharey to let the 21-member taskforce hand-pick five or six field staff to work with it towards goals such as ensuring that by 2005 everyone under 25 is in paid work, education or vocational training.

    The initiative would not cost the Government any more than the $80,000 already allocated to the campaign.

    Mr Maharey said his only reservation was that the community employment group was re-establishing itself after being transferred back from the Work and Income Department to the Labour Department.

    However, the fact that the group had yet to write its operating plan could work to the mayors' advantage.

    The group, with about 70 field workers and coordinators, has an operating budget of about $9 million but also runs a grants fund of $17.5 million for community enterprises, such as the development of Maori land in multiple ownership.

    Buller Mayor Pat O'Dea suggested that agencies such as local bodies should be allowed to act as employment administrators for small businesses reluctant to hire new staff because of the time and energy required to fill out official returns.

    "If every small business employed one extra person it would do away with unemployment," he said.

    But the raft of regulatory requirements meant a potential employer might decide to work harder rather than hire someone else.

    Mr Maharey said the Government had acknowledged difficulties facing small businesses by announcing, through Commerce Minister Paul Swain, a package of measures to reduce compliance costs.