Attracting migrants vital: Ashburton mayor

Attracting migrants is vital to the economic development of the Ashburton district, Mayor Angus Mckay says.

In a foreword to a just-released research document on migrants and newcomers in the district, the mayor said it was important residents embraced and celebrated the ethnic and cultural diversity migrants brought to the district.

The Ashburton district had population growth of 13.4% between 2006 and 2013, making it the fifth-fastest-growing area in the country. International migration accounted for about 60% of the growth.

Migrants were attracted by lifestyle and employment opportunities, particularly in the meat-processing and dairy industries, he said.

The document reviews progress on migrant and newcomer settlement, outlines issues for newcomers and proposes actions to help address them. It follows a research report produced in 2009.

More than 100 people from 47 nationalities took part in 15 focus groups to provide the information for the latest report. They ranged in age from 8 to 66 and had been resident in New Zealand between two months and 12 years.

Issues raised included the lack of a single, central place for migrants to get information about health and education, employment, driving and local services.

Social and geographical isolation was also an issue, along with costs for English language support for those on work visas.

While the diversity of the Ashburton community had grown considerably and rapidly over recent years, there was a need for the host community to understand and appreciate people from different cultures, the report said.

Issues around housing remained and a lack of public transport was a barrier.

Recommendations included exploring the development of a migrant information hub, organising more agency outreach visits to Ashburton, increasing cultural awareness and celebration, expanding support for English language development and looking at improving transport options.

- by Maureen Bishop