Council votes to resettle refugees

Aaron Hawkins
Aaron Hawkins
The ''nightmare'' Syrian conflict and terror attacks in Paris demonstrates the need to extend the hand of friendship to refugees, a Dunedin city councillor says.

Cr Aaron Hawkins made the comment as the Dunedin City Council yesterday voted to support a push by the Dunedin Refugee Steering Group to bring refugees to the city.

The group has already written to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, a Dunedin-based National Party list MP, asking for the city to be considered as a refugee resettlement centre.

The group also wanted the city to be considered as a candidate to host a refugee resettlement centre like Mangere's.

Councillors at yesterday's full council meeting backed the plan, including Cr Hawkins, who said the city had a moral obligation to act.

An influx of refugees would help enrich the city, and although the cost of accommodating them was not yet known, the decision should not be about money, councillors said.

Instead, the decision was about helping people in need, which was ''the only yardstick we should really measure it by'', Cr Richard Thomson said.

''This is just about doing the right thing and offering the hand of friendship and help.''

Cr Lee Vandervis said the city had helped before, by accepting Cambodian refugees, and those living next to him had been ''amazing people''.

New refugees, like many of the Cambodians, might eventually move away, but the city would benefit from their presence all the same, he believed.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the city's residents were ''all, in one way or another, refugees'', and those from Syria or elsewhere would be only be the latest to arrive.

Councillors voted to endorse the bid.