1.30pm



The Social Development Ministry announced today which areas unemployed people will not be allowed to move to if they want to retain their benefit.



Under the Government's 'Jobs Jolt' programme, unemployed people will be barred from moving to 259 areas nationally.



The areas with the most 'no go' zones were Thames-Coromandel and Tasman Districts (each with 23), Rotorua, Taupo and Buller Districts, 15 each, Far North 13, Hastings, 12, Grey and Westland, 11. The remaining districts had fewer than 10 no go zones. They come into effect on Monday.

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Work and Income national commissioner Ray Smith told reporters the limited employment locations list, agreed to by mayors, would be reviewed every year. Mayors' views and the local employment market would be considered.



"... I suspect it will change over time," he said of the list.



He said people could still move to the areas but they would have to prove they would seek work even if they had to travel some distance.



"If a job seeker says they want to move to one of these areas the test we'll be applying is how will they be willing and available to go to work, where there is work, if there's no work where they are going?"



However, people already living in those locations will not have the benefit taken off them.



Unemployed people could still move to no go zones, many of which are remote, if they could prove they had work lined up or were able to get to areas where employment was available.



There was no set distance they would be expected to travel, Mr Smith said.



"There's no rule, or line that we've drawn in the sand about any sort of distance. I think you have to look at the geography of New Zealand...I think it becomes quite evident where they are significant travel barriers, where there's no public transport."



No concession would be made for Maori wanting to move to where their whanau lived.



"No matter who you are this policy applies."



But people with a special reason for going to a no go zone, such as helping a sick relative, may be eligible for a different type of benefit.



People already in no go areas would get extra attention to try get them into jobs.



"I think that we're not putting people in those locations to shift but what we will be doing is exploring with them how it is they are going to find their way to work," Mr Smith said.



"I don't think that is going to easy for some of these people who have lived in some of these towns for a very long time who may be expecting employment within those locations."



Work and Income would help these people overcome childcare and transport problems, possibly by offering subsidies, Mr Smith said.



"What we are really saying is its not okay to ignore the situation and not take some active role with these people."



He said some people may chose to work if they find they have to travel a long time every day.



Mayors were involved in deciding which locations to include on the list.



"...they are confident we will work very hard in those communities to help people that live there to be able to obtain work and continue to live in those communities.



"Providing we put in that effort I think they support the fact that they really don't want people moving in receiving unemployment benefits in these locations."



Mr Smith was unable to immediately provide figures of how many unemployed already lived in the no go areas. He said it was not a big proportion of overall unemployment rates -- there were 84,426 unemployed people as of last month -- but often people in the areas had been unemployed for a long time.



A focus on the long-term unemployed is another part of the $104 million Jobs Jolt strategy which will also work test beneficiaries over 55, and have more benefit suspensions.



Mr Smith said other parts of the strategy had been going well, especially part of it where people who attended a seminar when applying for the benefit. Between September and December last year 23,505 people contacted Work and Income for the unemployment benefit but after attending the seminar about half decided not to apply. About 1000 of them went onto another benefit.