Getting the "neff off the couch" was the overlying message from Ministers Shane Jones and Willie Jackson in Kawerau this morning.

The ministers were joined by MPs Kiritapu Alan, Tamati Coffey and Peeni Henare at Kawerau's Firmin Lodge to announce $2.2 million of PGF funding for youth and young adult initiatives in the Eastern Bay town.

Employment Minister Willie Jackson made the announcements - worth more than $2.2 million - today in Kawerau. Photo / Katee Shanks
Employment Minister Willie Jackson made the announcements - worth more than $2.2 million - today in Kawerau. Photo / Katee Shanks

Jones said coming from Kaitaia, a town similar to Kawerau, he understood the problems faced.

"In this country possums cause a lot of damage to our trees," Jones said. "In some towns there are human forms of possums. They are lack of opportunity, lack of ambition and lack of support.

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"I am incredibly proud to be part of a Government that has found $3 billion dollars for provincial areas like Kawerau and the rest of the Eastern Bay."

Employment Minister Willie Jackson at the Bay of Connections Forum last year. Photo / Stephen Parker
Employment Minister Willie Jackson at the Bay of Connections Forum last year. Photo / Stephen Parker

Jones encouraged youth at the announcement to seize opportunities that would arise as a result of the programmes being funded.

He then joked about having to leave early as he had to drive to Te Kaha to make a second announcement.

"I'd much rather be going by helicopter but then the media would be asking me if I was using tax-payers money so I'm driving," he joked.

Before introducing the programmes to receive funding, Jackson said the term "getting the neffs of the couch" would be considered politically incorrect in other areas of the country but not in Kawerau.

"In Kawerau we know these kids, they are whanau, and we do want them off the couch and into employment," Jackson said.

The funding came as a result of economic growth in the region and will go towards three skills and education programmes which will collectively support about 200 people a year.

Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell, MC Majean Rogers, MP Kiritapu Allan, youth representative Iraia Nuku, and Minister Shane Jones. Photo / Katee Shanks
Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell, MC Majean Rogers, MP Kiritapu Allan, youth representative Iraia Nuku, and Minister Shane Jones. Photo / Katee Shanks

The programmes will receive funding from He Poutama Rangatahi (HPR) and Te Ara Mahi (TAM) initiatives, funded through the fund.

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The three programmes were Kawerau Pathways to Work, Eastern Bay of Plenty Driver and Operator Training Centre and School of Hard Knocks.

"The three initiatives predominately target young people not currently in employment, education and training, and who are most at risk of long-term unemployment," Jones said.

Shane Jones at this morning's announcement. Photo / Katee Shanks
Shane Jones at this morning's announcement. Photo / Katee Shanks

"In the Bay of Plenty, that is just under 20 per cent of young people aged between 16 and 24."

He said two of the initiatives build on the Provincial Growth Fund's existing $2m investment in the Kawerau-Putauaki Industrial Hub, expected to bring around 500 jobs to the regions in the next five years.

Jackson said the programmes would connect rangatahi with local employers and increase their awareness of local industries.

"We're investing in programmes that will get local people ready for local jobs," he said.

He said a commercial and operator training centre in Kawerau will be established with help from this fund to help address a local and nationwide shortage of qualified commercial drivers.

"Up to 100 people from across the Bay of Plenty will be targeted to go through the training centre each year and this will include older, long-term, or under-employed people."

Jackson said supporting provincial communities to boost regional economic growth and improve social outcomes of local people was what the Provincial Growth Fund was designed to do.

Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell said it was fantastic to see so many people in Kawerau that were "here for the youth".

"They are our future, they are the reason we get up in the morning," Campbell said.

"It is also great to see local programmes getting funded as opposed to programmes being led from Wellington. Kawerau could probably build an airport based on the number of pilot programmes we have had that have been led from Wellington."

He said there was a "perfect storm" brewing in the towns of the Eastern Bay, a collaboration targeting youth and employment, and he thanked the coalition Government for listening and making it happen.