A job subsidy scheme aimed at providing 20 new jobs in Buller over two years is underway.

Buller Mayor Garry Howard came up with the idea last year as the district lost hundreds of jobs associated with mining.

The Government agreed to provide $300,000 to match $300,000 from the Buller District Council (from Development West Coast's $1 million Buller economic development stimulus fund). A media statement from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) today confirmed the scheme was underway.

It said the partnership between the council, Development West Coast and MSD would allow employers to apply for up to $30,000 for each new job over two years.

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Employers would have to fill in an application form available through the council.

A panel would review the application to ensure the job met the criteria.

The criteria include: jobs must last at least two years and comprise at least 30 hours a week; employers must provide a business plan; preference will be given to 18-30 year olds.

If the panel approved the proposed job, the employer would receive details of suitable applicants, the statement said.

Potential employees -- people who had been affected by the downturn in Buller -- could register at the council or ask Work and Income to refer them to the potential jobs.

Buller Mayor Garry Howard said the employment initiative was a "very positive way to help businesses expand at a time when it is most needed".

"I'm very pleased at how well the parties have worked together to develop the framework and enable the project to come to fruition.

"The target of creating 20 new jobs won't be met overnight, but we have already had a good level of interest leading up to the launch."

The final scheme differs from Mr Howard's original proposal. He wanted employers subsidised to take on one extra worker who was already employed elsewhere, to create new jobs and free-up existing ones.

MSD labour market manager Lynne Williams said a West Coast work broker from Work and Income would be calling on employers around Buller to market the initiative, encourage involvement and answer any questions.

"This is a great opportunity to make a positive difference in the Buller community and having the Buller District Council's leadership and financial support from Development West Coast gives us the drive to make this project a success."

Ms Williams said employers who did not fit the criteria for the initiative were still able to talk to Work and Income about other products that were available, if they were considering hiring permanent staff.

When the council discussed the scheme in February some councillors expressed concerns. Councillor Dave Hawes said he knew of no similar schemes succeeding elsewhere. "It's merely shifted the chairs on the Titanic."

He was worried subsidies would advantage one business over another and said propping up businesses for a while wouldn't solve their problems.

- Westport News