Teenage beneficiaries are understandably cool on a plan to pay them only "pocket money" instead of benefits - but a tutor who works with them says it will swing his vote behind National.
Ten unemployed teenagers at a music and drama course run by Quality Education Services in Mangere said National's plan, unveiled by Prime Minister John Key on Sunday, would make little difference because in many cases their families already control their money.
The plan would pay their rent and power bills direct to their landlords and power companies, pay most of the rest of their benefits via a card which could be spent only on "essentials" and not alcohol or cigarettes, and pay the youngsters only a fixed amount of "pocket money" in cash.
Rhys Maraki, 16, whose entire independent youth benefit (IYB) goes into an account used by his aunt and uncle who look after him, said the change would not affect him at all.
"You can't buy alcohol and cigarettes anyway until you're 18," he said. "That doesn't even matter to us."
Selwyn Robson, also 16 and on the IYB until he got a job helping deliver the Herald with his father, said: "It's a waste of time because people have got personal reasons why they're on benefits and the Government can't cover that."
Jodi Paraone and Oshyn Pokaia are both 17, both on the IYB and expecting a baby in November. Both pay board to their aunts and neither drinks alcohol. Jodi smokes, but said: "I'll have to quit."
Victor Rubie, who has had only odd jobs since being made redundant from a fencing business two years ago, was the most critical of the plan - partly because, even though he is 20, he can't get a benefit at all.
"Every time I go for it they find some way I can't get it. The people at Winz [Work and Income NZ] try their hardest not to help you."
Mr Rubie said the plan to pay only pocket money was "too inflexible".
"Circumstances change, you need money then," he said.
A spokeswoman for Social Development Minister Paula Bennett confirmed that the cash element in the new IYB would be "a set amount" - the same for all young people whether they are living with relatives or flatting. It will not be just whatever is left over after paying for essentials.
Asked whether it might be $20 or $40 a week, she said: "The amount is still being worked on."
But Glen-Paul Waru, who tutors the Mangere course and hosts his own Tuesday night hip-hop show Juicy on Juice TV, said National was "on to something" with its plan.
"It was an eye-opener for me when I started working with at-risk youth. I was blown away with the holes in the system and the inadequacy of Winz."
He said many families pushed their teenage children into applying for the IYB, arranging for aunts or uncles to declare that the children no longer got on with their parents, because the families needed the extra income.
Many teenagers lied about how much rent they paid so they could get more money. Most received travel allowances of $10 a day to get to class but got lifts with friends so they could spend the money on drugs and alcohol.
"I've voted Labour all my life except last time, when I voted no confidence," he said.
"I'm voting National, only because I've been working in this environment for a year and I see how youth are affected ... I think National is on to something. It's not perfect but it's a step in the right direction."
Mr Waru said life for his students barely extended beyond their home and their course.
"I took them to Warkworth two weeks ago and half of them had never been over the harbour bridge before."
INDEPENDENT YOUTH BENEFIT: WHAT IT MEANS
* How much: $167 a week after tax.
* For: 16- and 17-year-olds who cannot live with or be supported by their parents.
* National's plan: Pay expenses such as rent and power direct to landlords etc; pay other living costs by card, with restrictions; pay teens only small weekly "pocket money".