Bike plan has Waikato in a spin

By James Ihaka

Waikato business leaders are excited about the prospect of the national cycleway passing through Hamilton.

But it is still not clear whether the river city is on the proposed route.

About 130 Waikato business, community and Government leaders gathered in Hamilton yesterday to follow up on last month's national Job Summit to discuss solutions for getting employers and their staff through the economic downturn.

Business Development Centre chief executive Sandra Perry said the cycleway was one of several initiatives which would stimulate employment.

"We need to make sure we have our own one that goes right through the city," said Ms Perry, citing tourism and health benefits as the major kickbacks for the route.

Also excited by the idea was the regional commissioner for Social Development Waikato, Te Rehia Papesch, who said the "Waikato part of the cycleway" would create jobs.

"We have to know what [part] will we all play in that and ... as a Government agency what can we do to ensure that our people in the Waikato get employed to do that infrastructure work," she said.

Other ideas that surfaced included sharing skilled workers in a labour pool, tax breaks for employers providing training for staff and Government grants for first-home buyers to help the flagging building industry.

Ms Papesch said the Waikato region had about 2700 unemployed people - about 1000 more than at the same time last year, although Department of Labour figures showed the local labour-force participation rate of 69.9 per cent was higher than the national average of 68.6 per cent.

She said a slide in building consents - 51.4 per cent less in January than in the same month last year - was partly to blame for the jobless spike.

The retail industry was also suffering slightly, although the 1.5 per cent fall in sales for the December 2008 quarter mirrored the drop nationally.

- NZ Herald

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