'My kids work hard' - Ashburton deputy mayor defends district's young people

4:37 pm on 17 September 2021

Ashburton's Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan has politely distanced herself from some of the controversial youth unemployment views of her fellow elected members.

Ashburton district deputy mayor Liz McMillan says she knows plenty of young people who work hard.

Ashburton district deputy mayor Liz McMillan says she knows plenty of young people who work hard. Photo: LDR / Adam Burns

McMillan disagreed with the comments from councillor Lynette Lovett, who had a crack at "young entitled people" in the 16 to 24-year age-group as being a factor in the district's labour shortage.

"I've got a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old and they've both got jobs and they work hard," McMillan said.

"We're elected to have our say and she's entitled to her views."

Lovett's views have drawn wide-spread public reaction, and mostly negative, on various news sites around the country.

Comments at the same meeting on Wednesday by fellow councillor Rodger Letham, who said "parenting and education" was the problem and it was not a matter for local government, added to the controversy.

McMillan, careful not to inflame the matter further, explained that it was difficult to debate vigourously during a "very long" zoom council meeting call.

"We've all got to find the button to raise our hand and once we raise our hand, we have to wait our turn."

The number of people on job seeker benefits in the Ashburton District has increased by more than 33 percent, with the 16-24 age bracket noted as a factor by the Ashburton District Council in its latest economy report.

McMillan said it was on the council to turn the issue into a positive.

"We get the numbers and figures, but you don't know the background of why that is happening."

She pointed out that programmes, such as My Next Move, that the council had front-footed which emphasised driver licensing as a means to helping pupils transition from secondary school to employment.

The council's economic development team have been in talks with the Ministry of Social Development around the matter.

Discussions had unearthed barriers around drug and alcohol issues, mental health, motivation and lack of qualifications as outlined in the report.

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