English happy with SIT efforts

SUE FEA
Last updated 05:00 01/03/2014

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The Southern Institute of Technology was doing its bit to "keep young people on track" and off welfare, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said.

Mr English said at the opening of SIT's new $3.5 million Queenstown student accommodation complex at Remarkables Park yesterday that New Zealand needed more young people who were skilled, not just trained.

This would encourage greater investment in New Zealand.

There were 310,000 people on welfare benefits in New Zealand and taxpayers could expect to pay $278 billion during the time they were receiving those benefits to fund that, Mr English said.

"Around $50 billion of that is associated with people under 20 who are on a benefit," he said.

"It's pretty much worth paying for a chaperone for each of these people under 20 to work three eight-hour shifts a day to make sure they're never on a benefit."

There was a 50 per cent chance that anyone on a benefit under 20 would still be on one 30 years later, Mr English said.

New Zealand had one of the most expensive housing markets in the developed world.

SIT had a national profile, thanks to its zero fees scheme, and the swanky nine-unit, 55-bed complex ensured affordable housing for students in the higher-priced Queenstown market.

"This is ongoing investment in upskilling New Zealanders," Mr English said.

There were huge opportunities for New Zealand tertiary institutions to tap into Asia and the Pacific, he said.

SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds said 17 of the 55 beds were taken, mostly by Kiwis - a lot of them from Auckland - as well as overseas students.

She expected the remaining beds to fill as intakes arrived throughout the year.

SIT could now swing into full marketing mode overseas and around New Zealand. "We've been reluctant to here, as [affordable] housing has been scarce."

The building, dubbed "Party Central" by Mr English, was officially blessed by SIT kaumatua Riki Cherrington, before Mr English and Invercargill MP Eric Roy cut the official ribbon.

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