Debate ensues over Government’s new Christchurch work incentive scheme

Yesterday the Government announced it would put more than $3 million into a new scheme encouraging New Zealand’s young unemployed to move to Christchurch for work. This scheme is open to 1,000 people and will provide each of them with $3,000 to help with the costs of moving to Christchurch and beginning work. Applicants must have a confirmed fulltime job offer and stay in Canterbury for at least 3 months.

However, many critics of the scheme have already emerged. Housing providers in Christchurch say there just isn’t the room to accommodate these news workers. The city is already struggling with the incoming workers and the many families waiting for their houses to be repaired. Tenants Protection Association manager Helen Gatonyi said she would have hoped the Government would consult housing providers beforehand, but this had not happened. While Harcourts Accommodation Centre owner Patricia Bowden said this influx carried the risk of pushing inflated rent prices even higher.

John Key said the Government recognised the shortage of accommodation in Christchurch, but is confident there are solutions. These include the housing accord signed last month with the Christchurch City Council that aims to boost the supply of temporary, affordable and social housing and the Land Use Recovery Plan that has freed up more land for development and higher-density housing. Key also said that large employers will provide short-term accommodation and that workers can stay with friends and family.

Companeis involved in the city’s rebuild have said that it is experienced professionals that are needed, not unskilled labourers. Although Leighs Construction founder Anthony Leighs said he would welcome the workers, it may be at least a few months until the rebuild starts picking up for the year and this kind of work becomes more available.

The one off payments will be available from July. Work and Income will begin working closely with employers to connect them with beneficiaries who may be suitable for the incentive.

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