Speech to welcome January intake of refugees

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 11:30

Tihe mauri ora!

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e rau rangatira mā

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

It’s my great privilege on behalf of the Government and people of New Zealand to welcome you to your new home here in New Zealand. 

Each one of you arrives here from different places and different experiences. I cannot begin to imagine the horrors you have experienced and the personal sacrifices you have made to make the journey to New Zealand. Many of you will have left behind family members as well as jobs, friends and a way of life.

But you now have in common this place, this new land and the opportunity to leave that trauma behind you; to go forward establishing a new and better existence.

You’ve travelled a very long way to start a new life in country you know very little about, and it is understandably a daunting prospect.  You will be given every assistance to enable a smooth settlement and I’m sure you will find New Zealanders are warm, friendly and welcoming people.

New Zealand is one of the world’s most culturally diverse countries.  232 ethnicities speaking 190 languages, including nearly a quarter who were born overseas underscores that diversity.

We also have a long and proud history of refugee resettlement. Since World War II New Zealand has resettled more than 35,000 refugees, commencing with the Polish children in 1944. Since then many groups have been welcomed to New Zealand including Hungarians in the 1950’s, Indo-China in the 1980’s as well as Burmese, Bhutanese and Iraqi’s in recent years. When we consider these refugees, their dependants, their families and their extended families, a significant proportion of New Zealanders now has a refugee heritage.

We also have a reputation for fairness and freedom, including freedom from discrimination.  The first nation to allow women to vote is also considered one of the least corrupt and easiest to do business.  We value freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion. Diversity is not just tolerated, it is celebrated.  Above all, we value peaceful coexistence.

This may be very different to the environment from which you have come.  You will be given every assistance from the staff here at the Resettlement Centre and the communities you will be placed into to understand the Kiwi way of life and I have every confidence that with that support you will settle well, contribute to our wonderful diversity and be excellent citizens of this country. 

Welcome to New Zealand.