The Government is warning against the Labour Party's plan to scrap military camps for the country's worst youth offenders and replace them with conservation-based programmes, which National is calling "bushwalks".

The Labour Party wants to abolish the Military Activity Camps, which take up to 40 youths every year, and replace them with Conservation Corps programmes as part of a youth employment package it announced yesterday.

The package, costing $183 million, includes dole-for-apprenticeships for vulnerable and targeted schemes for Maori and Pasifika.

It is aimed at reaching 24,000 unemployed Kiwis under 20, and includes a Contract with Youth to target those most in danger of getting stuck on a benefit long-term.


Labour's Kick Start Apprenticeships would be include a $9100 subsidy -- the equivalent of the dole -- for 12,000 apprenticeships over four years.

The subsidy would be paid to an employer, who would commit to providing a full-time job, salary, training and mentoring. The young person would have to be 18 or 19, on a benefit for at least three months, and at medium to high risk of being on a benefit long- term.

Mr Joyce said the Government already had a number of initiatives to address youth unemployment, including Youth Guarantee, Maori and Pasifika Trades Training Initiatives and Vocational Pathways.

"Under National, the 15- to 19-year-old NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) rate is already down to an average of 8.2 per cent over the last year, which is similar to before the Global Financial Crisis."

He said the only substantive change from Labour was the Conservation Corps.

"Labour is proposing to take the most serious, hard core repeat youth offenders on bushwalks."

Labour's employment, skills and training spokesperson Grant Robertson said the programme would be a full-time 20-week course that included conservation work, vocational training and confidence building.

MAC graduates had an 83 per cent rate of re-offending, he said.


"There are 75,000 Kiwis aged 15 to 24 who are not in work, education or training. That's 11 per cent of our young people; double the unemployment rate of the rest of the population."

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows said four out of five MAC graduates reduced their rate of offending.

Of those who do re-offend, 81 per cent did so at a less serious level, including a 53 per cent reduction in violent offending.

"No re-offending is acceptable, but anyone who thinks they have a magic solution to stop these young people offending entirely is dreaming," Mr Borrows said.

Labour's youth unemployment package:

-- 12,000 Kick Start Apprenticeships each with a subsidy of $9100 for 18- and 19-year-olds most vulnerable to being on a benefit long-term

-- 1500 placements for the Conservation Corps, to replace Military-Activity Camps

-- 2000 industry training placements for Maori youth and 1500 for Pasifika youth

-- 3000 Gateway placements, training for students while still in school

-- Boost to careers advice in schools, and replacing Careers NZ with a new agency