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Auckland To Benefit Combined WINZ Regional Office

Auckland will benefit from combined Work and Income Regional Office

Work and Income's new Auckland Regional Office was officially opened yesterday, marking the first step towards a change in focus designed to address the needs of the region's rapidly growing and diverse population.

Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment Rick Barker opened the new Ellerslie site yesterday and told Auckland Issues Minister Judith Tizard, invited MPs, North Shore Mayor George Woods, representatives of local government bodies, employers and other invited guests that the change from three regional offices to one would only be of benefit to Auckland.

"By developing a single co-coordinated approach, delivery of 'whole of Auckland' strategies reflecting the specific and unique needs of Auckland communities will be greatly enhanced.

"Auckland Regional Commissioners Isabel Evans and Barry Fisk will lead the way to ensure a single, co-ordinated approach to planning, delivery and purchase of services for Auckland clients is carried out."

In the 2002-03 financial year, Work and Income placed 27,700 Aucklanders into jobs - more than the population of Blenheim. Two thousand of these were provided with In Work Support to help them make the transition to employment. At the same time, the number of registered job seekers in Auckland dropped by 14%.

"These figures represent very real differences made in the lives of clients, their families, and their communities. They also represent the innovative and collaborative approaches that Work and Income has taken to assist its clients," Mr Barker said.

Auckland is home to 1,251,400 people, or 31% of New Zealand's population of about 4 million people, even though it takes up only 2% of the land mass.

Stretching from Wellsford in the north to Meremere in the south, the region also encompassed the same area as Auckland's seven greater Territorial Local Authorities.

Auckland Regional Commissioner Isabel Evans said Auckland was also the most ethnically diverse region in the country, with its population representing more than 180 different ethnic groups.

"The region's diversity reflects the fact 53% of migrants to New Zealand settle here. Almost a third of Auckland's residents were born overseas, compared to a fifth nationally.

"Overall, estimates suggest that Auckland's population is growing by 49 people a day, people who need 21 new homes and 23 new vehicles. Some arrive from other parts of New Zealand but many are from overseas who have come here for a variety of economic, social, and political reasons."

Co-commissioner Barry Fisk said Work and Income was moving to capitalise on Auckland's strong labour market by moving job seekers quickly into work through programmes such as WRK4U.

"WRK4U is a new seminar which provides all new applicants for Unemployment Benefit consistent information which can help them find work promptly.

"Applicants attend a short seminar where they can learn about the services offered by Work & Income. They learn about their job seeker obligations as well as what their full and correct entitlement to assistance is likely to be."

Indications were that this new approach allows job seekers to quickly identify job opportunities and increases the number of clients taking up work within the first 13 weeks of their registration. The seminars are being held daily across the Auckland region and Mr Fisk said feedback from clients had been "extremely positive".

Through enhanced case management in 2003-04, the Auckland regional office hoped to further reduce job seeker register numbers for Maori, migrants, refugees and youth client groups.

Over the next two years, Work and Income would also seek to significantly reduce the number of clients of Pacific Island origin receiving the unemployment benefit, particularly in the Manukau area.

The government was also investing $21 million over four years in Auckland to establish a migrant and refugee programme to assist such clients into work.

Regional Commissioners Isabel Evans and Barry Fisk said there was clearly no "one size fits all" solution to Auckland's employment needs, rather Work and Income would co-ordinate strategies with local communities and employers to better meet the needs of both.

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