from the Christchurch Press 15 February 2002

    More vocal line on jobs urged

    by David King

    Employment Minister Steve Maharey has told the country's mayors to stop being nice and demand more from the Government to solve unemployment.

    Mr Maharey told 18 mayors in Christchurch yesterday that he wanted them to become more vocal in demanding help on unemployment problems in their areas.

    He said he wanted less “back- scratching” and more action from mayors.

    “I want a more hard-nosed approach. I think we will all soon get over being nice to each other and get on and demand more things from each other.”

    While Mr Maharey promised more help to solve unemployment problems, he knocked back the idea of providing tax breaks to encourage more workers to live in parts of the South Island where there are skills shortages.

    “Tax breaks distort development and are not sustainable. We want incentives that are more long term and sustainable.”

    He said the Government could look at providing help in terms of paying transfer costs or training.

    Mr Maharey was in Christchurch addressing the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, a nationwide group set up to push unemployment initiatives.

    Three of Auckland’s mayors failed to show for the two-day meeting.

    Mayor Garry Moore said he had been told John Banks couldn't make it: “They can’t have any unemployment problems in Auckland.”

    Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey and Manukau’s Barry Curtis were expected to show but had not made it either by yesterday afternoon.

    The task force yesterday revealed that it has joined up with the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, which counts dairy giant Fonterra, Telecom, and retailer the Warehouse among its members, to push for zero unemployment among under 25 year olds by 2005.

    Mr Moore said the mayors were keen to take up the challenge.

    “If we address the unemployment issue then we tackle a lot of the problems we face. The saying the devil makes work for idle hands is a very true one.”

    City Care, the maintenance business which employs 450 in Christchurch, is backing the scheme.

    Staff development manager Liz Barton said only 6 per cent of the work force were under 25, and the average age of staff was 45.

    “There are much fewer young people entering our type of industry. We need to be providing more opportunities for young people through work experience or training so that they can see there is a real career path they can follow.”

    City Care offers jobs at all skill levels, ranging from labourers and trades people to engineers.

    She said the reality for firms like hers was that young people wanted to find more “glamorous’ jobs.

    “There are only so many of them to go around,” she said.