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Key Wraps Up Conference With Call To Help Youth

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

Christchurch, Aug 2 NZPA - The announcement of a series of programmes to reduce youth unemployment has marked the end the National Party conference in Christchurch today.

Prime Minister John Key told 700 delegates the Government would spend $152 million to create work, education and training opportunities for unemployed youths as their numbers rose from 4000 last June to 17,000 this June.

"It is absolutely critical that we provide young people with adequate development opportunities. If we don't, we risk diminishing the potential of an entire generation of New Zealanders," Mr Key said.

Bringing forward the Youth Guarantee policy would cost $52.7 million and create 2000 new places for 16- and 17-year-olds not engaged in school to study at polytechs.

There will also be $20 million spent on a "Job Ops' programme to give 4000 low-skilled people a wage subsidy of $5000 over six months to get them into jobs.

Another $40.3 million scheme known as Community Max will get 3000 people places in community programmes paying the minimum wage for 30 hours a week and a $1250 training payment paid to the community group.

In all, Mr Key outlined nine programmes that would be targeted at youth unemployment some of which were expansions or targeting of current programmes.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said youth would not be denied the dole if they refused any of the programmes, but said Work and Income would "aggressively" work to ensure that training or work was chosen over a benefit.

Mr Key's announcement marked National's first conference in power for a decade.

He described the two days as a celebration that did not descend into "triumphalism" where ministers reinforced that the recession meant tough decisions had to be made in the coming months.

In his closing speech Mr Key thanked members for their work toward last year's election victory and praised the political parties that had helped him form the Government.

Earlier in the day Peter Goodfellow was elected to replace outgoing president Judy Kirk after delegates had elected in a new board.

Those elections caused a stir when high profile candidate Wira Gardiner failed to get a place on the board.

Mr Key said Mr Gardiner still had a lot to offer the party and while he would not say why his bid had failed, said he did not believe it was a matter of race.

Some had hoped Mr Gardiner, who will become a knight shortly, would become the first Maori president of the party.

National's board elects a president from within its membership.

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