Employment Minister Willie Jackson has announced a further $3.08 million investment to tackle youth unemployment in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Jackson made the announcement at today's Bay of Connections annual forum in Rotorua.

More than 180 people attended the annual forum, representing businesses from across the Bay of Plenty.

Jackson was the key speaker and confirmed further investment into the Eastern Bay communities of Opōtiki, Whakatāne, Kawerau and Te Teko following the $1.7m announced earlier in the year to support work readiness programmes in Opōtiki.

"When our rangatahi find themselves out of work or training, they drift and become disengaged and demotivated. Programmes like the ones announced today address some of those underlying issues which prevent rangatahi from gaining long-term employment," he said.

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Employment Minister Willie Jackson made the announcement at today's Bay of Connections annual forum in Rotorua. Photo/Stephen Parker
Employment Minister Willie Jackson made the announcement at today's Bay of Connections annual forum in Rotorua. Photo/Stephen Parker

"These programmes help to promote a pathway towards independence, capability and confidence building for our young people."

He Poutama Rangatahi is an initiative that was launched this year to target those regions with a high number of rangatahi not earning or learning, and providing support to both rangatahi and employers within those areas.

The total government investment now sits more than $5 million in the Bay of Plenty region, Jackson said today.

There were claps around the room as he announced the extra funding.

"For Shane [Jones] and myself, too many of them are our people, and we're committed to trying to turn around a lot of these young people."

Speaking to the forum Regional Economic Development minister Shane Jones said he was the provincial champion, "the steward of your fund."

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He said today in Wellington Māori chiefs from around the country were coming to discuss the Provincial Growth Fund, but he had wanted to speak in Rotorua.

"I wanted to show that you don't have to come to Wellington for us to meet with you.

"I have no interest in talking to the chiefs of the tribes, I want to be talking to the Indians."

Jones said he had made it a matter of priority for himself to attend to the rohe that had "historically been left behind".

New Zealand First deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau also addressed the forum in a short and impromptu speech in which he reiterated "what's good for the provinces is good for New Zealand".