'Trying to be proactive' to help foreign workers

The dairy industry is attracting international workers to South Otago. Calling Clydevale home are...
The dairy industry is attracting international workers to South Otago. Calling Clydevale home are (from front left) Ronnie Soriano, Marilou Ariola, of Hillend, Allan Villarosa, (from back left) Elmer Guzman, Simon Alonzo, Joel Canilang, Jennifer de Guzman, Alison Stirling, Chris Shaw and Alex Catequista. Photo by Hamish MacLean.
Driving skills, English language training and access to services are the top concerns of the growing international workforce in the Clutha district, Clutha District Settlement Support chairwoman Chris Shaw says.

The settlement support group, on hand at the Southern Region Dairy Expo at Clydevale last week, offers a 12 week everyday English course and brings students from its Clydevale base to Dunedin for Literacy Aotearoa's learner driver's licence theory tutorial, which has been tailored for people for whom English is a second language.

Volunteers in the group offer to drive with the newcomers as they ready themselves to gain a restricted licence.

''We're trying to make the roads safer for those who aren't used to our driving conditions,'' Mrs Shaw said.

''We're trying to be proactive.''

Last year, 15 attended the 20 hour course and 14 gained their learner's licences.

The district's settlement support group grew from the Clutha Valley Rural Neighbourhood Support, established in 2012, after chairwoman Alison Stirling recognised the need.

As a teacher aide at Clutha Valley Primary, she found herself working with a growing number of pupils for whom English was a second language.

The former Cantabrian soon learned little was offered to support international newcomers to South Otago.

A dairy farmer herself, it was plain to her what was driving the change in Clydevale.

''It's the dairying that has altered this conservative area over the last 15, 18 years.

''South Otago is a small area, and, sure, settlement support is working in other provinces, but there's nothing here.''

At the Dairy Expo last week, Mrs Stirling was approached by a man from the Ukraine who had recently arrived in Clutha for work.

He simply wanted to know if there were other Europeans in the area, and she was able to put him in touch with another Ukrainian man new to the area, Mrs Stirling said.

A multicultural ''bring a plate'' meal at the Memorial Hall in Balclutha last winter showed her how easy it was to overlook the number of internationals residing in Clutha.

''We were expecting maybe 80 to 100 people. We got 360 people and counting,'' she said.

''All international ... they were all linked to primary industries.

''We were overwhelmed. It was amazing.''

In 2014 the two groups recorded TrustPower Community Awards regional wins for Clutha Development Settlement Support for Arts and Culture and for Clutha Valley Rural Neighbourhood Support for Health and Wellbeing.


Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter