The New Zealand Government has allocated $100 million to help redeploy workers affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, with the hard-hit region of Gisborne-Tairāwhiti to be the first helped, Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford, Forestry and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Employment Minister Willie Jackson announced today.
Phil Twyford says COVID-19 is having a significant impact on workers throughout New Zealand. “Nowhere more than on forestry workers in Tairāwhiti.
“Our Government is moving quickly to help people stay in work through a $100 million package which will see workers redeployed into local alternative employment for the next three to six months. Of this funding, $28 million will go to Tairāwhiti to help redeploy almost 300 workers.
“Forestry was one of the first industries to be seriously impacted by COVID-19 but by keeping the infrastructure and workforce of the sector intact, we hope it will be one of the first to recover,” Phil Twyford said.
Alternative work identified for Tairāwhiti forestry workers includes:
- local roading work, including road maintenance
- hazardous tree removal
- fast-tracked One Billion Trees projects
- conservation activities
- retraining and educational opportunities.
The Tairāwhiti package will be administered through the Provincial Development Unit in partnership with the Mayors’ Forum and Gisborne District Council. Affected workers will be referred via the Ministry of Social Development’s Rapid Response Team and affected businesses.
“A significant portion of the Tairāwhiti economy is linked to forestry, which accounts for 6.7 per cent of regional GDP,” Shane Jones says.
“The sector was just recovering from a slow-down over last winter. Many small firms used their cash reserves to get them through that and some companies are now struggling to survive.
“However, the future for the forestry sector is extremely bright and we want to ensure it is in a position to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19 as quickly as possible. By redeploying workers to short-term projects, we can help ensure they are available to go back to the forestry sector once it returns to normal,” Shane Jones says.
“I want to thank the forestry sector for working with the Government to find solutions to support workers.”
Willie Jackson says the package for Tairāwhiti includes training, transport, administration, assurance and other project-related services.
“Our Government will be constantly reviewing all its measures to soften the impact of COVID-19 on workers and businesses. We want to make sure the help we are providing is getting to those people and businesses who need it the most,” Willie Jackson says.
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