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Key To Unveil New Youth Unemployment Initiatives Tomorrow

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Christchurch, Aug 1 NZPA - New policies to address youth unemployment will be unveiled by Prime Minister John Key tomorrow.

Opening the National Party conference in Christchurch today, Mr Key said the Government faced difficult economic times and a "challenge of high and rising youth unemployment".

He said ministers had been working on a "great package of initiatives" for six to eight weeks and this would be made public in his closing address to the conference tomorrow.

Most are predicting that unemployment will rise from 5 percent to 8 percent by the end of the year.

But the picture is worse for those aged under 20.

Unemployment among this group is 14.3 percent and could increase ahead of general unemployment by a rate of three to one.

If this happens one-in-five youths will be out of work by December.

The economic gloom did not cast a shadow over the conference, with 700 delegates plus other members celebrating last year's election victory.

Outgoing president Judy Kirk received a large cheer when she said for the first time in 10 years the members could welcome a prime minister to their conference.

Mr Key told them the Government had to work at improving the fundamentals of the economy, while providing more efficient services to the public.

In her message to the conference, Mrs Kirk said she was proud that the party had been rebuilt, the caucus rejuvenated and returned to government with the highest-ever party vote under MMP.

"It is essential that we don't rest on our laurels. We must keep the party strong and in good health," Mrs Kirk said.

"Our work is never fully done, the campaign continues. The party vote must always be the target... Where we forgot the importance of the party vote, we got walloped. When we paid attention to its importance, we had a stunning win."

Mrs Kirk said rebuilding the party had been a long arduous task but one she never thought was unachievable.

"It is the first time that we have met as a party to celebrate National's election win last year and the first time in a decade that we can welcome a prime minister to our conference," Mrs Kirk said.

The conference would also focus on working towards the 2011 election and the first step would be to elect a president.

National reformed its constitution after a particularly divisive presidential election brought Michelle Boag to power.

Instead of a president being elected directly from the general membership, the membership now votes in an executive board and, in turn, the board elects one of its own to the presidency.

The board is made up of Prime Minister John Key, one caucus representative, the party's general manager and seven elected members.

There are five vacancies among the elected members, with eight people seeking the nomination.

The candidate with the highest public profile is Wira Gardiner, who served as lieutenant colonel in the army, and helped set up the Maori Development Ministry and the Waitangi Tribunal.

He parted ways with the National Party in 2005 when then leader Don Brash launched his Iwi/Kiwi campaign.

Mr Gardiner returned to the party and his wife Hekia Parata is also now an MP.

He was appointed a DCNZM in 2008 and will accept his knighthood later in the year.

Mr Gardiner's higher public profile makes him likely to win a seat on the board, but his election to president is by no means certain.

The board is elected today and the president on Sunday.

Today Deputy Prime Minister Bill English will give a centrepiece speech where he is expected to attack Labour for its economic record and on Sunday the conference will close with an address from Mr Key.

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