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Greens tell Labour to give up on ‘no-go zones’

Greens tell Labour to give up on ‘no-go zones’

The Green Party is calling on the Government to abandon plans to designate more than a hundred rural communities as “no-go zones” for job-seekers. The Government is planning to make most people moving to those areas ineligible for the unemployment benefit and local mayors have today confirmed which communities are to be designated out-of-bounds for job hunters.

“This is social engineering at its worst,” Green Employment spokesperson, Sue Bradford, said.

“It basically tells people where they can and can’t live.

“Instead of developing strong local communities and economies, this Government appears committed to depopulating those areas the Ministry of Social Development deems unfit to survive.

“One reason so many beneficiaries live in rural and provincial areas, where there are fewer jobs, is that it is a lot cheaper to raise a family well in such districts than in a big city like Auckland or Wellington. Why should people be penalised for putting the welfare of their families first?

“Unemployed and beneficiary groups battled hard in the 80s to stop the unjust practice of people, particularly Maori, being barred from receiving the unemployment benefit after returning to their home districts. It is disgraceful that this Government is so eager to turn back the clock.

“How shameful is it that one of the designated ‘no-go zones’ is Blackball, the very birthplace of the Labour Party? What would the founders of the labour movement say if they could see how their heirs are treating the very people the party was established to help.

“And at the same time as Steve Maharey is wielding his big stick over Blackball, his colleague Trevor Mallard has put its local primary school under threat of closure. Labour’s new strategy for regional development appears to be one of extinction.

“Rather than showing a commitment to maintaining and rebuilding rural and provincial New Zealand Labour now appears keen to wipe some tenaciously surviving townships, like Blackball, out altogether.”

Ms Bradford is also concerned about the pressure that might be put on people currently living in those communities to move out in search of work.

“Steve Maharey has stated that no one will be forced to move, but Work and Income has told some mayors of plans to allow only ‘special case’ beneficiaries to remain.

“We fear that Work and Income will simply toughen the rules year-by-year, till it’s killed off the communities that make rural New Zealand and herded everyone into Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. Far better for the Government to show some moral fibre now and abandon the whole misguided project.”

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