NZ's welfare hot spots revealed

The country's hot spots for welfare recipients have been revealed, with the Bay of Plenty timber town of Kawerau landing at the top with 19 per cent receiving a benefit.

Kawerau, previously labelled the DPB Capital of New Zealand, has 6940 people of which 1324 were working-age beneficiaries.

The town was followed by the Far North, Wairoa, Wanganui and Gisborne districts.

Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell said he wasn't surprised his town was at the top, saying beneficiaries were staying put.

"People that are on the dole shouldn't even be allowed to come and live in Kawerau, but they do because it's a cheap place to live."

"This is over 20 years, this sort of thing doesn't happen over a week."

Campbell said people just loved to hate Kawerau and many were unaware that the town worked its "heart out" to create jobs.

"We are working hard here to get our people employed. If we're told you're shit for long enough, you start to believe it.

"There is huge employment here, but because of the geographics, most of the people live on the other side of the boundary. That's all it is," he said.

Of those on welfare in Kawerau, the majority were women with 53.5 per cent, and about 32.5 per cent were between the age of 25 and 39.

The numbers included those receiving the unemployment, domestic purpose, and sickness benefits, and were calculated using December 2011 quarter statistics.

In the Far North, 13.75 per cent of people were on welfare. Wairoa has 13.52 per cent, Wanganui 13.04 per cent and Gisborne 12.55 per cent.

The districts with the lowest number of welfare recipients were Mackenzie (3.26), Central Otago (3.24), Southland (3.18), Selwyn (2.46) and Queenstown-Lakes (1.55).

Work and Income national commissioner Carl Crafar said the economic position, demographic and history of those communities played a part on the figures.

"In my perfect world there wouldn't be anybody requiring welfare, but there are people that need that support," he said.

Crafar said Work and Income targeted regions with a high number of welfare recipients differently by providing more support and employing more staff.

"Our staffing allocation is based on the clients we have in place. Therefore we provide more support to communities with higher numbers than we do to lower numbers.

"We do a lot of work around training programmes and providing support to employers to take those on benefit into employment."

Crafar said Work and Income received about 1000 jobs to fill a week spread throughout country, including Kawerau.

"What we do have to do is ensure that our clients are work ready for whatever opportunities are available."

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday said more than 6600 people cancelled their benefit last month, leaving 322,951 on welfare.

"We’re particularly focused on young people so it’s pleasing to see more than 2800 young people found jobs last month and cancelled their benefit," she said.
The Government's Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill which introduced the first stage of welfare reforms passed its first reading last month.

It would see sole-parents on the DPB with children aged 5 and older looking for part-time work.

Those whose children are 14 or older will be required to look for full-time work, and those who have additional children would be required to work part-time when their baby turns one.

These expectations would also apply to those on the Widow's and Women Alone benefits, and partners of beneficiaries with children.

Youths would also be affected by the changes, with essential costs such as rent and power being paid directly.

Other money, to cover the likes of groceries, will be put on a payment card.

The changes were expected to take 46,000 off a benefit and to see 7000-11,000 beneficiaries working part-time.

The reforms would cost $130 million a year with an expected saving of $1 billion over four years.