WELLINGTON, July 12 - Instead the government is turning to locally designed projects to change the trajectory of young people's lives in the regions. 

English travelled to Hawkes' Bay on Wednesday to announce $50 million to help young Kiwis in four regional areas to work with employers, training providers, government agencies and NGOs to help them build good employment habits.

It includes $42m over four years for locally-designed projects and $8m targeted specifically at helping young Maori.

English said the programme would work with 5280 people in Hawke's Bay, Northland, the eastern Bay of Plenty and East Coast.

"They are at the greatest risk of not developing good work habits over their lifetime," he said.

"If we can get them into a job and keep them there over the next 12 months, we can change the trajectory of their lives."

Labour criticised the government's policy as being limited to 5000 young people when there are 90,000 not in work, education or training.

"It's not credible; it's not a serious attempt to deal with a problem that's just got worse under this government," leader Andrew Little said.

He said National would have done better to adopt his party's policy - to target 10,000 young people a year.

But the government says it's a plan based on the success of local programmes, such as Project 1000 in Hawke's Bay and Kaikohe Grow in Northland, rather than taking the same approach nationwide.

It will involve a mix of social investment and local knowledge.

In addition, Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy joined Mr English in the regions to spruik $17.7m for regional growth initiatives as part of Budget 2017.

Bridges said each region had their own ideas for lifting their social and economic potential.

"When the regions do well, New Zealand does well and we are already seeing the fruits of success from the programme in areas like Northland and the Bay of Plenty," he said.

The announcements came shortly after a speech by NZ First leader Winston Peters who argued the region had been neglected and was not reaching its full potential.