FROM RUSSIA TO TAURANGA

Hard-working immigrants always welcome in Tauranga, says mayor

(BAY OF PLENTY TIMES:  https://www.nzherald.co.nz/bay-of-plenty-times/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503343&objectid=12197877)

The Bay of Plenty is still proving a popular place for immigrants to settle with 1537 new Kiwis welcomed to the area last year.

The number of new citizens, provided by the Department of Internal Affairs, compares with 1776 in 2017 and 1265 in 2016.

The majority emigrated from the United Kingdom, although numbers from India and South Africa were also high.

The new citizens, according to civic leaders and ethnic ambassadors, contribute to the region’s flourishing multicultural societies.

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said anybody who could “get in and work hard and be part of the community” would always be welcomed.

“That’s not culture-specific, that stands for all,” Brownless said. “And anybody not prepared to do so is not welcome.”

He said citizenship ceremonies were held in Tauranga once a month and were generally a mix of formal and informal.

“They can be emotional at times.”

Brownless said sharing of cultures was done well in Tauranga, especially during ethnic gatherings.

“Once a year we have an ethnic festival that allows people to experience food, dance and religion from other ethnicities. It’s always well-patronised and well-received. There are also many events held by the different ethnic groups throughout the year.

Tauranga Multicultural Centre’s Ann Kerewaro said she believed the Tauranga community was as eager to learn about different cultures as new citizens were to learn about local culture.

“We host weekly meetings at our centre with the old and the new [to Tauranga] and the young and the old [age] coming together to listen and to learn,” Kerewaro said.

“Kiwis get to meet newcomers to our city and are generally very interested to find out where people have come from and the differences in lifestyles.”

She said the meetings were also an opportunity for new citizens to bring up any problems they were having and to seek answers.

“These meetings are well attended and highlight the great relationship between locals and newcomers.”

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the town had been embracing visitors since the pink and white terraces.

“We have always welcomed new people to our town and we love doing it.

“And while Rotorua used to be a gateway to other destinations, immigrants are now choosing to live here.”

She said a number of factors, including lifestyle, schools and employment, had contributed to the change.

“Being mayor allows a helicopter view and I see our new citizens everywhere. With some, I have travelled the journey with them, and others I have greeted at citizenship ceremonies.

“They are employees, small business owners and big business owners. Not only do they contribute to our economy, they are also incredibly committed to community events.”

Chadwick believed a multicultural society contributed to a vibrant community.

“I love what our people of different ethnicities bring. Not only are new citizens happy to embrace our culture, I believe Rotorua residents who understand what it is to be bicultural, are not at all threatened by multiculturalism.”

Chadwick said she often got teary at the monthly citizenship ceremonies.

“Lately our new citizens have been starting their speeches with their pepeha. They understand the value of biculturalism and they do their best to do it well.”

Rotorua Multicultural Society president Margriet Theron said she had been seeing two different scenarios at recent ceremonies.

“There are people who arrived on a student visa, studied for one to three years, obtained a three-year work visa, and then worked until accepting a skilled position or reaching a certain pay level, then applied for citizenship,” Theron said.

“At the other end there are people who came out to New Zealand years ago, have Kiwi children and grandchildren, and who have realised they are the only generation to not have citizenship and applied.”

However, Theron said there were some immigrants who chose not to seek New Zealand citizenship because it meant forfeiting their own.

“Many of the citizenship ceremonies are quite emotional, especially if they involve a refugee getting citizenship.”

She said Rotorua had a strong multicultural society, largely made possible by the city’s welcoming community.

From Russia to Tauranga

Anna Page said coming to New Zealand from Russia was like coming out of a cave.

Page came to New Zealand in 2010 to gain qualifications as an English teacher and fell in love with the country.

She was granted citizenship in 2018.

“My initial educational course I took was short-term so I then returned on a student visa and furthered my studies. I am now a qualified accountant,” Page said.

“New Zealand was definitely a huge change for me but in a good way. I felt like I had come out of a cave after so many years.

“The people were smiling and friendly, everyone wanted to help and the country was clean and green.”

Page met her husband after being in New Zealand for about three or four years and they initially lived in Auckland before moving to Tauranga to be closer to family.

“As well as being cheaper to live than Auckland, Tauranga has a much more relaxed lifestyle which suits us and our young son” (see Photo).

She is in the process of establishing Russian classes for toddlers in Tauranga.

“In Auckland we had Russian churches, schools and educational classes but there is nothing in Tauranga. So, with a friend, we will be setting up classes that include a whole complex of games and exercises aimed at the full development of the child.”

By Katee Shanks

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