Dunedin's cultural fabric in transition

Juan Puricelli and Maria Callau relax with their daughters Camila (4) and Maia (9) in the lounge of the Brockville home they are renovating. Photo by Peter McIntosh. When naming locations similar to Dunedin, Argentina does not often make the list - but for Juan Puricelli the similarity of Dunedin to his native country helps make the city home.

Mr Puricelli and his wife Maria Callau left Argentina to escape the financial crisis which crippled the nation's economy in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

They are among an increasing number of people from Africa, Asia, Europe and South America to call Dunedin home and are changing the cultural fabric of the city.

Statistics from the latest census show ethnic diversity in Dunedin is on the rise and increases to all ethnic groups were reported in last year's census.

Mrs Callau left Argentina first in 2001 and moved to Australia, with the intention Mr Puricelli would follow soon after. However, difficulties in obtaining a work visa for Mr Puricelli brought the couple to Auckland in 2003, where their eldest daughter Maia was born, and then south to Dunedin in 2005. Another daughter, Camila, was born in Dunedin in 2009 and their children were part of the reason Dunedin was an appealing place to call home, Mrs Callau said.

''Every city I lived in when I was at school or university [had a population] above a million, so this is the smallest place I have lived, but I find it really good for the kids,'' she said.

Dunedin offered stability and economic opportunities which were not available in Argentina.

''We would have to be working full-time, both of us, to give the kids what they need, while here we can work one of us full-time and one of us part-time and we are only five minutes away from everything,'' Mrs Callau said.

The accessibility of public facilities, like parks and swimming pools, and the city's safety were also a ''big, big advantage'', Mr Puricelli said.

The couple did miss the ''busy life'' of their homeland, but the outdoor experiences and lifestyle offered in Dunedin reminded Mr Puricelli of where he grew up, in Patagonia.

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