Winston: volunteer for 5 years of slavery in the regions and have your student loan wiped

Winston Peters is proposing something novel, though I’m not sure how well it would be received.

Winston Peters is proposing a loan write-off for students who work for five years in regions where there’s a labour shortage.

And immigrants would get points if they’re prepared to live in the provinces.

The NZ First leader set out these policies in a speech at a public meeting in Gore today.

“We would write off student loans in areas where there are critical regional shortages,” he said.

“Graduates spending five years in such a programme would have their student loan written off, and after five years many of them will want to stay in that region.”

Sounds reasonable…but:

Mr Peters said his party’s immigration policies would bring in people the country needed.

“We will maximise points for those who are prepared to go to the provinces,” he said.

“That is uniquely our policy and on this issue every other party is tainted by their record.”

Mr Peters told his audience the provinces weren’t getting a fair go.

“You might be surprised to learn that Northland is in the top half of the exporting provinces and at the bottom of the income decile,” he said.

“You are at the very top of the export earning provinces but none of that is reflected in your income decile either.”

So basically you have to work in areas where there are few job prospects, and even less in wages…for five years and you can get your student loan wiped.

I guess the only people who would consider this would be people with low income prospects anyway.

Still it’s an idea. I┬áhave no idea how they could enforce it though, or even measure it. Perhaps Winston is suggesting GPS bracelets for all of his new loan serfs?




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  • Momo

    Would be ideal for Medical and Dental students. Work for 5 years and watch at least $100k debt disappear. Well worth it.

  • NZ_Stormer

    There is already a scheme in place for rural vets through MPI – they get $55k over 5 years, effectively covering a large portion of their student loan. They also get to work in thriving well paid practices.

  • Tom

    But just how many media studies people art graduates do they need in the regions?

    • Miguel

      None, of course, but who cares – if you can’t find the work, you won’t get the rebate. More fool you for choosing a useless degree.

    • geoff2112

      Or Violin tuners?

  • Miguel

    Not an altogether bad idea. I’m not worries if the regions are places where it can be hard to find work – the onus is on you to find the job first, then we’ll talk about writing off your loan. As for monitoring, that could be done via IRD – they have to process your student loan repayments already, and have your employer’s details, so those combined with your own address (which they also have) should make for a fairly straight-forward means of checking. Five years seems a sensible duration, too – not too short.

  • Cadwallader

    Not entirely new. I recall teachers used to do “country service” compulsorily at one time. I think it is a sound policy and one which Labour will have trouble dumping on unless of course the unions demand they do. It is remarkable that Winston has produced a policy which could withstand fiscal scrutiny and seem to be workable. When will anything resembling a realistic and sane policy emerge from the dark corners of Labour?

    • Platinum Fox

      As I recall teacher trainees signed a bond and were required to teach for a specified minimum period after graduating including completing country service as teacher trainees were paid a salary in those days. I think that it was possible to avoid doing country service if an argument was put forward of immobility due to being married to a partner whose employment was in the city.
      In the 1960s and 1970s there was also a system whereby immigrant doctors were required to take up practice in the provinces for the first few years after their arrival.

      • Aucky

        When I took up the teaching option in the 60s as a means of getting my degree paid for plus a student allowance of about seven quid a week I was required to be bonded for five years teaching including two years country service. As a footnote I bailed on graduation and went and drove tour buses instead and let me tell you that the government was very assiduous in ensuring that all of the money that they had advanced me was repaid in two years.

  • BigDogTalking

    It is a nice self regulating system, if there is demand for your services in a regional area designated as part of the scheme then you get the loan write off.
    If no demand for your particular skills such as art history with a political studies major then off to Wellington you go with all the rest of your friends.

  • CheesyEarWax

    Definitely a vote winner for Bachelor of Arts graduates.

  • metalnwood

    I hope there is a cap on the amount.

    I can see people racking up as much debt as possible through the scheme thinking it will all get wiped off and I can see a lot of moaners later on complaining about the huge debt they got if for some reason it’s not wiped out, like living in the regions doesn’t agree with their delicate sensibilities.

    Then they will blame the govt.

  • sheppy

    Strikes me he’s campaigning on something that already exists – perhaps he’d better go and read the migration guide. From the guide:

    What if I have a job outside Auckland?

    If you want to claim bonus points for employment outside Auckland, make sure your job offer states the location of your job. This is needed in addition to providing general evidence that demonstrates skilled employment. The employment agreement entered into by you and your employer should also confirm the location of your job.

  • venator

    His idea will hopefully ‘open discussion’. The middle of the North Island is looking rather sad at the moment. Having more people populate these zones may be a kick starter. I can’t see why we don’t have huge retirement villages in places like Hawera, Marton, Patea , Woodville, Dannevirke etc… this would open up numerous growth prospects and utilize under valued land. Also allowing older folk to cash out of high value property and move into lower cost, more secure and new double glazed homes.

    • dennis

      The problem is the hospital facilities in the region’s are not very good for the needs of the elderly.

    • Graham Pilgrim

      I cannot imagine anybody choosing to work, or retire, in Patea. A fate worse than death, to be sure!

  • Seriously?

    The headline made me think that Winston was explaining why he stood in Northland – but then I remembered he is only their MP in name.

  • T Mardell

    Consider the business opportunities here for an entrepreneur to set up shop in a region, knowing that he had a steady talent resource, renewable every 5 years. Choose a region with a reasonable transport option as needed, reasonable recreation and educational options to attract families, and good digital communications. Some good possibilities here methinks. One would need guarantees of course.

  • D-Rad

    But there aren’t jobs in those areas!!!!! Does he think I actually like spending $600 a week on rent in Auckland?????

    • T Mardell

      But I guess the trick is to make it viable to create jobs there … often there are good schools (think Wanganui – Marton), good transport options ( anywhere with a railhead / airport) – and a Council willing to do what it takes – all basic options if you know you can get good people.

  • Jayar

    Not only the lack of jobs in Northland, but also most young people can’t wait to get out (preferably to Auckland) where they see life as being much more exciting. For many years Dargaville lacked even a cinema – one has recently arrived.

    • contractor

      Yes the potential for regional job growth varies and depends on potential for new industry, for example Whangarei with port, nearby industries and Ruakaka area with increasing population multiplier effect has a great future.
      I spent childhood in Dargaville, fond memories. Perhaps locals could ramp up kumara exports (although sail em down the muddy Northern Wairoa River might not be best choice)!

  • shykiwibloke

    Devil in the detail:- let’s say you can earn $150k or more in Auckland with your specialist skill. And the govt will wipe $10k per annum for the five years. You would need to be able to earn $140k or more in the region to make it worthwhile (or the equivalent net benefit given cost of living will be proportionally cheaper.)
    Somehow I doubt an IT professional, Civil Engineer or other professional other than medicine can achieve more than 50-75% of an Auckland income in say Wairoa or Hokatika.
    Then if the individual is a family person, you have preferences in schools, churches, hobbies, sports and recreations to consider – we all lead complicated lives it seems.
    I think the idea has its heart in the right place, but I believe it would simply encourage more of our brightest kids and potential immigrants to look at other countries and we would be worse off.

    • Somnambulist

      In doing the calcs you also have to factor in cost of living, of which rent will be one of the most significant for someone in the early stages of a career.

      If someone can rent for $200 a week in a rural area compared to $600 in Auckland then they can earn a further $20,000 (after tax) less per year and still break even. And in a country town they’re likely to have far lower day to day transport costs – no petrol burning cross Auckland commutes, for example. And also fewer opportunities to throw money away on unnecessary trivia, perhaps?

      • shykiwibloke

        Agreed – hence my comment about looking at net difference.

    • contractor

      Adding to Somna…s comment; The lifestyle outside the concrete traffic ridden jungle. Less frenetic, at least an hour saved daily commute, and even more for weekend ventures. Plus true wide open spaces nearby, more personable less stressed population. Contrast the big cities continuously being more crowded, costly from housing, rates, and more.

      • shykiwibloke

        If it’s that good – why are they not lining up for these jobs now?

  • Graeme

    Perhaps he had been on the booze to come up with this one. Hell probably deny sYing it in a dzy or two as usual.

    • [MOD] No. No no no. Attack the policy, not the person.

    • contractor

      Hey we who enjoy it find our tipples sharpen the mind! Ok, it tends to be with wild fancies.

  • manuka416

    That’s not a bad idea, multiple birds with one stone: provide the regions with needed services; an economic stimulus to the regions; and hopefully some of the bonded will love the regions and stay.

    • contractor

      Are the jobs there? Yes and no I believe. Business and consumerism are dynamic, and it is these which are driving the NZ economy ahead, across retail, tourism, entertainment, dining, services, manufacturing, building, and infrastructure.
      Farm produce is now a much smaller portion of GDP, and even less of exports, so that the current low dairy prices while not good no longer dictate our long term wealth.
      So we need people to grow the above, which tend to feed on those various parts of the economy, economic multiplier effect if you will.

  • SFB

    Thriving freezing works have closed and many surrounding towns are now just dumps. Detroit leveled whole suburbs because they cost too much to maintain. I think of an area like Moerewa. Minutes from the Bay of Islands with thousands of tourists a week driving close by and yet they have done nothing to spruce the town up and present itself as a destination like other small towns chasing the tourist dollar. You are more likely to get mugged.
    BTW How are those 10 bridges going up North. Winston will be flogging Key next year if those have all been deferred.

    • Wheninrome

      In years to come Moerewa will be referred to in tourist terms as “that little Maori village” where the natives of NZ live.

  • contractor

    Politically the old fox is still the fox. This is clearly a follow-on from his Northland success (the rhetoric awaiting action…) trying to appeal to National’s large rural support base, thereby to hold National to account, because he sure won’t associate himself with the lightweight lot on the left.
    His ideas have some merit but extent of success or how they’d work is immaterial, they are just vote grabbers.
    Just like in the US and elsewhere there are elements of impatience with the political establishment increasing the support for alternatives, no matter how dubious some are.
    If Winston really puts pressure on cutting immigration, I and others I know who other than on immigration like what National is doing would be much less enthused about voting for them in 2017.
    Incidentally, net immigration under National adjusted for Kiwis returning (net 2,000 past year) instead of leaving (20 year average of 20,000 pa!!) is less than the average under Labour!

    • rua kenana

      From NZ Stats department. International Migration Statistics.
      NZ citizens
      Net outflow for Yr ended March 2015: 6,409
      Net outflow for Yr ended March 2016: 3,569