Focus on assisting migrants

Migrant families living in the Waitaki district need more practical help to settle permanently in the area, according to a survey funded by the Ministry of Social Development.

After an initial $20,000 injection from the ministry, the Settling in Waitaki project surveyed more than 100 migrants from 17 ethnic backgrounds.

Project manager Brigid Ryan said the report indicated there were some great services available in Waitaki, but found non-English speaking migrants and those living in isolated rural areas were still facing difficulties adjusting to life in the district.

"For those with limited English language and those who are in isolated parts of the community with no transport, the transition to life here can be daunting.

"Women at home with children, farm workers with long working hours and elderly people can be particularly isolated."

Mrs Ryan added that progress had already been made in providing additional support to migrant communities, following the report's findings.

"We have already achieved a great deal - a new migrant support co-ordinator has been appointed and a newcomers' network is under way to help newcomers meet people and make friends.

"Over the next 12 months, we will focus on the other priority actions identified in the report.

"An office has been set up at Abacus House [in Oamaru], so there is now a place people can go to get advice - that was one of the clear finding of the report."

A working party involving government agencies, the Waitaki District Council and community groups had also been set up to take the project further, she said.

Waitaki Multicultural Council vice-chairwoman Sandra Tonkin said keeping existing migrant communities in the district and attracting new migrants were both vital to Waitaki's economic and cultural future.

"Our district needs more growth and to be an attractive place for new families to come and settle.

"Newcomers add a huge amount of diversity and vibrancy to our community and they contribute in so many ways."

A public launch of the report, attended by Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, will take place at Pembroke School on Monday.


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