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On the job

Labour force surge, unemployment drop.

Quick action and a collaborative regional approach to economic recovery are pointed to as major reasons for a significant turnaround in the region's unemployment rate and huge rise in the region's workforce.

Official unemployment statistics released by Statistics New Zealand yesterday show unemployment over the combined Hawke's Bay and Gisborne regions rose to 5.7 percent at the end of December.

However, additional data supplied to The Gisborne Herald by StatsNZ estimates that when taken separately, Gisborne's unemployment rate is lower — 4.9 percent.

Stats NZ estimates there are now 300 fewer unemployed, with the district's unemployment rate falling from 6.8 percent in December 2019.

The figures also show a growth of about 4600 workers in the region's labour force, now estimated to be about 32,200.

The region's labour force participation rate has also grown from 70.4 percent to 73.1 percent over the year.

Labour force participation rate is the percentage of the civilian population 16 years and older who are working or actively looking for work.

Gisborne Chamber of Commerce said the new figures represented what its members were seeing.

“The figures reflect what is happening in the local economy — from a myriad of construction projects and business expansion projects to a strong horticulture, forestry and farming sectors,” chamber president Paul Naske said.

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said the numbers were “wonderful news” after a tough year for everyone.

“We reached out to the Government early on in 2020 when we became aware of our forestry industry being adversely affected by the unfolding pandemic.

“We were lucky to secure funding from the Government to run a redeployment programme across the region.

This was finalised a week before the lockdown and the Government allowed us to vary the contract to include workers from other industry once it became clear the pandemic would affect all industry, not only forestry.

“We are seeing those results now,” said Mayor Stoltz.

“It was a Tairawhiti-wide collaborative approach between several parties, including GDC (Gisborne District Council), MSD (Ministry of Social Development), PDU (Provincial Development Unit), Eastland Group and Trust Tairawhiti.

“We could not have done this without supportive employers willing to guide and mentor some workers.

“I have spoken to several of the workers who were part of the programme and they were grateful for the opportunities offered to them — training, mentoring, as well as the opportunity to move into permanent employment.

“We redeployed more than 236 people (the target was 200) and after the programme, 160 workers transitioned into other employment.

“I am proud of our collaborative region-wide effort to redeploy workers during the pandemic and also help transition them into meaningful employment.”

SUCCESS STORY: Kupa Simpson was one of the many who upskilled and gained qualifications through the Tairawhiti Economic Support Package Redeployment Programme. He was one of 24 people Arborcare employed through the programme and among those who have moved on to other employment — in Kupa's case, a full-time job with McNatty Construction. The redeployment programme contributed to a sharp rise in Gisborne's labour force numbers over 2020. Picture by The Black Balloon