The Labour Party's $60 million plan to get unemployed youth into voluntary work has been greeted with a mixed response from Tauranga community services.

The proposed "Ready for Work" plan was announced at the party's annual conference.

It plans to put youth under 24 who have been on the job seekers allowance for longer than six months, to work in the community with the Department of Conservation (DoC), local councils and charities. The young people would be paid minimum wage instead of the allowance.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the plan would be an investment, resulting in savings to the government and society.


It was not compulsory for youth to take part, but there could be sanctions if they did not.

Waiariki Labour candidate Tamati Coffey said anything that got young people motivated was "a great thing".

"Whether its helping out for one of the many great charities in the Bay, or helping out in the Kaimai-Mamaku DoC estate or helping set traps on Mokoia Island," Mr Coffey said.

Tauranga Youth Development Team general manager Becks Watts said it could encourage young people to develop skills and be connected with organisations and companies.

"As long as it is not compulsory, the key to positive youth development is around them voluntarily wanting to engage. I think it's fantastic they're getting paid, that it is like a proper job," Ms Watts said.

Tauranga Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin said young people who volunteered at the foodbank benefited through their engagement with other volunteers.

YMCA Tauranga general manager Calum Davie said he wanted to see what the policy was trying to achieve.

"Are they getting tangible and viable work skills? I think this is just lacking detail, it is a lot of money for what they are expecting back."

"I'd like to see [youth] getting real-world skills. Like if they could receive certification proving them to be a reliable worker."

Mr Davie said current programmes such as those involving short-term military training were a good funding option due to the outcomes they achieved. "A lot of them transition full-time into the army."

In a press release, Employment Minister Steven Joyce said it the policy made no sense "when the biggest concern of employers around the country right now is finding enough young people to fill the jobs available".

He said regions such as the Bay of Plenty had employers searching for youth to work in their industries.

Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry said the policy would "end up being more trouble than it is worth for DoC".

"Finding work for a large number of untrained and unskilled people and providing them with supervision is likely to take DoC staff away from the front line conservation work they do so well."

"There's also no detail to this policy about what work they would actually be doing, and whether it would result in measurable gains for conservation and not simply be a 'make work' scheme."

Local Government New Zealand President Lawrence Yule said they had engaged with Labour regarding their policy proposals "at a conceptual level".

"Should the policy proceed we would engage further on the detail."

According to Statistics NZ, the September quarter showed the Bay of Plenty unemployment rate at 5.1 per cent, down 0.7 percentage points from September 2015.