Northland's unemployment rate climbed to 9.9 per cent in the June 2012 quarter - the highest in the country.



The figures, in Statistics New Zealand's quarterly Household Labour Force Survey, show that the unemployment rate for the region has risen by 2.2 per cent since March.



The rise was up from 8.7 per cent in the March quarter. Nationally, the unemployment rate has risen slightly, up to 6.8 per cent from 6.7.



The figures have horrified Labour List MP Shane Jones, who said it showed National had abandoned the region.

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But Prime Minister John Key said the increase to a two-year high was a "technical rise" largely caused by the post-earthquake situation in Christchurch.



"It's a very small, technical rise," Mr Key said. "I'm not overly concerned, but we were hoping that number would fall slightly. In terms of the unemployment benefit numbers, we're seeing those continue to fall."



However, Mr Jones said the figures showed the Government's employment plan was to ensure more Northlanders left for Australia.



Statistics NZ records show 53,000 New Zealanders, including 2069 Northlanders, moved to Australia to live in the year to February 29.



"I think that makes a mockery of the growth and development measures the Government talks about. While they are having these talk fests, unemployment is growing and more people are leaving to go to Australia," Mr Jones said.



While unemployment was rising, the Government was cutting funding to polytechs and that would lead to fewer people getting qualifications to help them find work, he said. NorthTec had a $4 million cut in government funding for the 2010/2011 year, from $31.4 million to $27.4 million.



Whangarei MP Phil Heatley said people who opposed mining and mineral extraction in the region needed to get real.



"Most Northlanders off to Aussie are chasing trades and trucking jobs in the minerals sector. I am determined that Northland broadens its base, supporting dairying, forestry, tourism and boatbuilding as our backbone but adding other opportunities like marine farming and mineral exploration," Mr Heatley said.

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"Opponents need to realise that when they say no to aquaculture or mining, both highly successful in other regions like Marlborough and Taranaki, they are saying no to new schools, no to better roads, no to jobs and goodbye to their neighbours.



"The announced $365 million investment in Marsden Point is itself an investment in an oil and gas business that has served Northland well, so I don't see how anyone can be so negative about local resource exploration."



The investment in four-laning Puhoi to Wellsford would do more for tourism and opening Northland's gateway to the world than any other project: "The anti-everything crowd need to get real, because we need the jobs."