Refugee families welcomed

Published on February 28, 2019

Refugee children.

Several times a year Horowhenua welcomes new New Zealanders who have made our district their home. Special Citizenship Ceremonies are held and whole families are 'sworn in’ as Kiwis. It is one of the milestone steps for the families but also for our community as they become valued citizens.

Recently, the Government announced that from May next year Levin will join Whanganui, Blenheim, Masterton and Timaru as host towns for refugee resettlement.

Deputy Mayor Wayne Bishop said the Government has laid down a challenge to Horowhenua – to welcome several refugee families who are looking to rebuild their lives after fleeing conflict in their homelands.

“We are a welcoming and friendly people here in Horowhenua. It is a strong part of our character and has been for generations,” said Deputy Mayor Bishop.

“We have been reassured that refugee families will only come once housing has been found for them. The challenge for the Government will be to build more Housing New Zealand homes to accommodate them.”

Deputy Mayor Bishop said the Ministry has advised that new arrivals will be supported by a yet to be determined, Levin-based service provider. They will help the new residents by coordinating enrolment in GP practices, early childhood centres, schools and English as a Second Language classes as well as employment. In May, Ministry officials will brief Council’s Community Wellbeing Committee about progress.

“We already have a strong reputation for excellence in horticulture, engineering, light industry, agricultural and meat processing. We have a growing number of new small businesses and in recent years we’ve attracted several major corporations who have built new facilities in Levin or, like Alliance, expanded their staffing numbers significantly,” said Deputy Mayor Bishop.

For local business leaders like Geoff Lewis, founder of Tendertips Asparagus, the decision makes perfect sense.

“Most people who come here have been through tough times that we cannot begin to imagine. They seek the safety and security for their families that smaller towns can offer. Their wide range of ethnicities, religions and countries of origin can’t help but enrich all our lives. After all, we’ve all come from somewhere," said Mr Lewis.

"They have stickability, a great work ethic and entrepreneurial skills that we as communities need in our workforce. They are great employees despite often having to learn English on the job. They are proud, happy and really want to contribute."

Mr Lewis said New Zealand faces a serious shortage of labour in many vital export industries like horticulture, wine and forestry, as well as transport and construction.

"So many regions are struggling to find enough labour and hard-working families with practical capabilities are what is needed right now,” he said.

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