New Zealand offers cash for move to quake city

AP

Unemployed New Zealanders are being offered cash by the government to move to the earthquake-damaged city of Christchurch and join in the rebuilding effort.

The government announced Tuesday it would pay welfare recipients 3,000 New Zealand dollars ($2,600) to move to the city if they found any kind of full-time work there.

Christchurch has been slowly rebuilding after a 2011 quake killed 185 people and destroyed much of the city’s downtown.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the city’s reconstruction is creating thousands of jobs but some unemployed people don’t have the resources to move to Christchurch.

She said the money will help pay for moving expenses, accommodation, tools and other equipment. “There is demand not only in construction, but in hospitality, retail and many other industries too,” she said in a statement.

The program is initially limited to 1,000 people.

Figures from government agency Statistics New Zealand show the unemployment rate in Canterbury, which includes Christchurch, is 3.4 percent, while the national rate is 6 percent. The agency’s most recent survey showed construction industry employment was up by more than 7 percent in Canterbury over the past year.

The opposition Labour Party said the plan is flawed because it wouldn’t benefit local people and would add to a housing shortage in the city.