Government Minister Shane Jones' "nephs on the couch" are being targeted with a massive injection of Provincial Growth Fund cash as the Government continues on its tiki tour of Northland ahead of Waitangi Day.
The Government today announced $82 million will go into increasing employment opportunities for young people in the regions, focused on Māori and Pasifika people.
Speaking at Mangatoa Station near Kaikohe this morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a new regional skills and employment initiative called Te Ara Mahi (Pathways to Work).
Up to $82.4 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will go into the programme.
Jones has lamented at length the habits of the "ne'er-do-well nephs", sitting on the couch doing nothing.
Today's announcement is aimed at all such "nephs", both literal and metaphorical.
Employment Minister Willie Jackson, who joined Ardern and Jones, along with other government ministers at today's announcement at the farm, said Māori unemployment and the rate of those not in employment, education or training required specific programmes such as He Poutama Rangatahi to bring them down.
Jackson told those gathered for the announcement that Jones had a habit of upsetting people and when he made his comments about getting the nephs off the couch, he'd upset a few people.
"But for any Māori who is working at the coalface knows what Shane was talking about. While it's a bit sensitive and a bit touchy, the reality is that he touched a chord around the nation.
"We've all got nephs on the couch," Jackson said.
He said one of his own nephews had explained he wouldn't get off the couch because of colonisation, and he'd rather watch the Blues playing the Chiefs.
Speaking to reporters later, Jackson said the reality was that Māori MPs had nephs on couches.
"We had to come up with strategies to activate our young people, and we've been quite successful with our youth programmes ... so we'll get the nephs off the couches."
Asked how much of an impact colonisation had on the current situation, Jackson said it was clear from history that colonisation played a huge part in Māori statistics today.
"But my view is we can't keep using it as an excuse.
"It's not an excuse for Māori to not do anything, to pick their game up, to get involved or to sit on the couch."
Two young people involved in a silviculture programme for young Māori at Mangatoa Station said they had benefited hugely from it.
Shaade Rakete, 20, and Alpine Dunn, 19, have both been working on the farm planting trees and learning other skills for about six months.
Rakete, who was previously a stay at home mum, said she went to work to earn more money for her children.
"The benefit wasn't supporting us, and I just wanted to get out there."
She said she was learning new skills. "How to plant and how to look after plants from seeds".
Dunn said he hadn't been at school since Year 10, having been expelled.
He said were it not for the programme, he would be at home doing nothing.
"This is as good as."
The lion's share of the $82m PGF funding announced today, $60m, will go to five of the so called "surge regions", those which need extra help. They are Northland, Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti, Hawke's Bay and Manawatū-Whanganui.
Those regions faced issues including high unemployment, low wages and lower productivity compared with the rest of New Zealand. The rest of the regions will get $20m and the remaining $2.4m will be spent on programme delivery.
He Poutama Rangatahi will get $13.2m and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples' Pacific Employment Support Service will get $8.8m to expand.
Hubs bringing together government agencies will also be created.
"These hubs will empower communities by bringing people and business together to access the full range of government employment support services, including access to work-readiness courses and training opportunities," Ardern said.
In January last year the Government announced $13.2m for He Poutama Rangatahi (HPR) pilot programmes in Te Tai Tokerau, Eastern Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti and Hawke's Bay.
Today's announcement comes a day after $127m was announced by the PM and her ministers in Kaipara - $100m to help Māori landowners develop their land, and $27m for Kaipara, mainly for transport infrastructure.