By: Lucy Bennett
The Government is ploughing more than $100 million into regional employment, focused on Māori and Pasifika people, in another series of announcements made in the lead-up to Waitangi Day.
Speaking at Mangatoa Station near Kaikohe this morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a new regional skills and employment initiative called Te Ara Mahi (Pathways to Work), to support workers and employers in the regions.
Up to $82.4 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will go into the programme.
Ardern said job creation was a cornerstone of the PGF, the Government’s $1 billion a year fund for regional economic growth.
The lion’s share of the funding, $60m, will go to five of the so-called “surge regions” which require extra help. They are Northland, Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatū-Whanganui.
Those regions faced issues including high unemployment, low wages and lower productivity compared with the rest of New Zealand. The rest of the regions will get $20m and the remaining $2.4m will be spent on programme delivery.
“We will be investing in two specific programmes that support Māori and Pasifika – He Poutama Rangatahi [$13.2m] and the expansion of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ successful Pacific Employment Support Service [$8.8m],” Ardern said.
Hubs bringing together government agencies would also be created.
“These hubs will empower communities by bringing people and business together to access the full range of government employment support services, including access to work-readiness courses and training opportunities,” Ardern said.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, who along with Employment Minister Willie Jackson was at today’s announcement, said the regions deserved their share of the country’s economic prosperity.
“Through the PGF we are able to amplify our investment in local people, including rangatahi Māori, who feature disproportionately high in NEET [not in employment, education or training] statistics.
“We’re also able to scale up the support available to employers to ensure they are able to take on local people to deliver on local projects,” Jones said.
In January last year the Government announced $13.2m for He Poutama Rangatahi [HPR] pilot programmes in Te Tai Tokerau, Eastern Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay.
“Nineteen HPR programmes are already under way, helping to get young people ready for work in sectors from forestry to hospitality. The additional funding is a welcome investment to meet the heavy demand that HPR has experienced,” Jackson said.
Ardern also announced today $21m to connect marae to the internet and establish regional digital hubs in towns.
That is on top of $80m already announced from the PGF for digital initiatives including rolling out more rural broadband and improving connectivity in areas such as Southland and the West Coast.
All but $1m will come from the PGF, with the remainder from the Crown Infrastructure Partners’ Ultra-Fast Broadband rollout budget.
“Digital connectivity is a key enabler for regional economic development. However, it’s clear that many rural communities are lagging behind in terms of access to internet and digital services,” Ardern said.
The first hubs, which will offer free Wi-Fi, co-working spaces and advice on the use of the internet for business, will be created in Northland.
“Māori in particular are materially under-represented in information and communications technology so this investment will provide an alternative way for rangitahi to learn the skills a modern workforce needs,” Jones said.
Today’s announcements come on top of $127m announced yesterday by Ardern and her ministers – up to $100m from the PGF for capital funding for Māori landowners to develop their land, and another $27m for the Kaipara region, mainly for transport infrastructure.
Source: NZ Herald