Government giving Buller $300,000 for jobs

By Lee Scanlon

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announced the funding today. Photo / Warren Buckland
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announced the funding today. Photo / Warren Buckland

The Government is giving Buller $300,000 to help 20 people into jobs.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announced the Ministry of Social Development funding today.

It will be matched by $300,000 from Development West Coast.

The $600,000 will provide wage subsidies so up to 20 people who recently lost their jobs can get new ones.

The scheme allows each job to receive a subsidy of $15,000 for a year.

However the proposed funding provides for another year of subsidies and Buller Mayor Garry Howard said he aimed to expand the scheme to two years.

Mr Joyce said Buller had had a particularly difficult period recently when some key employers laid-off staff at the same time.

"This plan, which is unique around the country, will help other businesses expand and take on people who have lost their jobs."

Buller has lost hundreds of jobs at Solid Energy and related contractors and businesses over the past three years. It will lose 100 more when Holcim leaves the district in a few months. Stockton Mine, which employs 273, faces an uncertain future.

Mr Joyce said the latest initiative complemented the Government's work to support growth in the wider West Coast through the Regional Growth Programme.

"A study is under way that will provide a comprehensive analysis of the economic opportunities on the West Coast.

"We will then work with the region to look at how best to take advantage of the opportunities identified to improve investment, jobs and income in the area."

He said unemployment across the wider West Coast/Tasman region was relatively low at 4.2 per cent.

"This initiative acknowledges a particular problem in a small but important part of the region."

Mrs Tolley said the initiative represented a significant investment in Buller. It would support employers to hire beneficiaries by contributing to the cost of their wages.

"This is another example of central government partnering to deliver the right solutions to suit a district under very significant pressure," she said.

"We know from experience that targeted wage subsidies are one of the most effective tools we have to support people into employment, which is why preference will be given to those at high risk of long-term benefit dependence."

MSD would provide up to $300,000 in wage subsidies to employers for 20 people who were receiving a Work and Income benefit in Buller or had made contact with Work and Income seeking assistance due to the impact of recent business closures.

The scheme targeted those aged between 18-30, but all Work and Income clients or potential clients would be eligible.

Using the existing wage subsidy process also meant the ministry could start implementing the initiative immediately.

Mr Joyce said the Government would continue to work closely with Buller and Mr Howard to seek new growth opportunities to counter Buller's economic difficulties.

Today's announcement follows a proposal from Mr Howard last year for a job-subsidy scheme jointly funded by the Government and Buller.

However, that proposal was for employers to take on an extra worker who was already employed elsewhere, to create new jobs and free-up existing ones.

It also proposed the scheme run for three years.

Mr Howard welcomed the latest scheme, despite it differing from his original proposal. He said it would have flexibility and would help employers and people looking for work in Buller.

The local $300,000 contribution would come from Development West Coast's $1 million district economic stimulus fund for Buller, and would be subject to DWC's sign-off.

"The support from Government shows flexibility and innovation for the Buller District, which is suffering from mining restructures and the loss of several hundred jobs over the past two years," Mr Howard said.

The Buller District Council would work with the Ministry of Social Development on the terms and conditions of the initiative.

- Westport News

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