Prime Minister Bill English has announced an investment package of $50 million to help at-risk young people into employment in several regions throughout the country.

Hawke's Bay has been selected for a Youth Employment Pathways programme as one of four regions in the country with the highest proportion of young people at risk of long-term unemployment.

Mr English said the localised initiative would target 5280 young New Zealanders who had the most challenges with employment in an effort to keep them off benefits and "change the trajectory of their lives".

"We're working with the kids who are most likely to get stuck on welfare and trying to change their lives so that in 20 years time they're not on a benefit."


A total of $42m over four years will be allocated from this year's Budget to fund local projects and a further $8m will be invested in initiatives aimed at giving young Maori the skills they need to find work.

Addressing a crowd at Mr Apple's pack house in Whakatu, Mr English said by looking at the benefits of proper intervention it had become clear that "each young person matters, each single one".

"When we look at the future cost of welfare . . . Shifting one young person off that track is worth it just for the Government's books, let alone for the impact on their whole lifetime."

Mr Apple chief operating officer Richard Hill said the company's expansion in recent years meant there were more job opportunities and highlighted the importance employment and training initiatives.

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"We put a huge effort into attracting, training and retaining young people into our business."

National Tukituki candidate Lawrence Yule said the initiative was "fantastic" and would present a great opportunity for the Government assist young people.

"What I've observed [is if] you have big central government policies but you actually can't get down on individual levels it doesn't work. So I'm very supportive of this, I think it's fantastic."


With Northland, the Eastern Bay of Plenty and the East Coast, the Bay will be on the receiving end of the programmes which are set to be led from within each region and involve employers, training providers, NGOs and government agencies.

Labour leader Andrew Little described the initiative as a "half-hearted election gimmick" and said it was not a credible or serious attempt to deal with the issue that had become worse under the National Government.

"It beggars belief this scheme has been cobbled together 10 weeks from the election when for more than a year Bill English has preferred to write off young unemployed people as pretty damn hopeless and too drugged and lazy."