It seems you'd be lucky to have a conversation around the water cooler about the desperation of the unemployed in Auckland because the company responsible for replenishing the water's having trouble finding people willing to do it.

Just Water's boss Tony Falkenstein pays above the minimum wage trying to find people with a driver's licence and a bit of muscle. The job is to deliver water coolers, drinking water and filters to the home and office market.

Student Job Search was no help because no one was interested, and likely to become less so, with free tertiary education and a $50 a week boost to student allowances on the way.

Two under-30-year-olds failed to show up for work yesterday after accepting jobs, around the same time as Regional Development Minister Shane Jones was telling us he was sick of dole bludging ne'er-do-wells and was determined to get them off the couch and into work.

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Four projects will be presented to Cabinet before Christmas, the New Zealand First Minister promised. Pity he didn't tell the boss, Jacinda Ardern, who appeared to be blindsided and was left scrambling, appearing confused over whether she thought people should have their benefit cut if they refuse to work for the dole.

She championed Labour's programme, saying it wasn't working for the dole, because the unemployed taking part in Government-sponsored environmental or community projects would be paid a legal wage.

But it's not an across-the-board plan, and if they refuse to take part in it then they wouldn't have their benefit docked, as Jones wants to see.

Who gets their way on this one will be a test of power, although it's hard to see Jones winning considering the trade unions are against it.

This of course is grist to National's muck-raking mill, with Bill English labelling it as an example of confusion with the coalition on collision course. A bit rich from a party which did little about welfare, other than to change a few benefit names, that saw increasing numbers taking up residence in shop doorways and cars after disengaging from a system that they felt saw them as boils on the rock star's bum.

But then just a few weeks out from the election National finally came up with a plan for under 25-year-olds who'd been on a benefit for six months or more - guaranteed work experience or training, or if drug testing was keeping them out of work, rehab. Those who didn't have kids and refused to take up the offer would have their benefit cut in half after four weeks.

There are benefit cuts in place at the moment for malingerers. Surely the trick is to stop them getting to that stage, but that is most certainly easier said than done.