31 Jul 2014

Kawerau locals have their say

9:55 am on 31 July 2014

People in the small Bay of Plenty town of Kawerau are fighting back after having welfare statistics in their town mentioned twice in Parliament.

In the house last week, Labour Party leader David Cunliffe made reference to places such as Gisborne and asked John Key questions about Kawerau twice.

He said half of the families who live in Kawerau earn less than $40,000 a year and a third of the town relies on a benefit, and in other areas half of the families earn over $100,000.

In reply, John Key said he expects Kawerau statistics have been that way for some time.

And he said the Government was improving infrastructure and the welfare system, which would have an impact on the people who lived there.

One Kawerau resident spoken to by Radio New Zealand News said Kawerau was a good place for old people to retire, but he said there was nothing for younger people because there were no jobs and a lot of gang activity.

Ivy Williams who has lived in the town for 46 years said she gets angry when people talk about her town negatively. Mrs Williams said there were a lot of good people in Kawerau and it was a good community.

Malcolm Campbell

Malcolm Campbell Photo: RNZ / Natalie Mankelow

Radio New Zealand News invited David Cunliffe and John Key to visit Kawerau. Both declined the invitation but said they had both visited recently.

Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell doesn't have a problem with being mentioned in Parliament.

He said the town's heyday was in the 1950s and 1960s when everybody had jobs in the local paper mill.

But those jobs are now gone and some families are into the third generation of unemployment.

Mr Campbell said the people who make over $100,000 were often local workers who lived out of town.

He said he had joined with other mayors in the Eastern Bay of Plenty region to try and create jobs in the region.