2 July 2018
Hellen Puhipuhi, from community group Born & Raised Pasifika, says it “gladdens her heart” to have a Welcoming Communities Plan in place to help Whanganui become even more welcoming for newcomers.
Ms Puhipuhi’s organisation was instrumental, along with other community groups which represent newcomers, in developing the Whanganui Welcoming Communities Plan.
“We were given the opportunity to gather our thoughts on our challenges and visions for new migrants and the community who have made Whanganui their home,” says Ms Puhipuhi.
The plan actively involves locals in welcoming newcomers and lists welcoming actions which will be undertaken between now and November 2019 to help newcomers belong and contribute to the Whanganui community.
Katy Newton, coordinator for Welcoming Communities, says 345 people responded to a public survey which asked what a welcoming community meant and what kinds of improvements could be made in Whanganui.
“We also looked at existing Whanganui District Council policies and strategies and thought about them in terms of whether they are welcoming to newcomers. The plan doesn’t mean starting from scratch but being more intentional in our everyday business so newcomers are included,” says Ms Newton.
While the plan has been primarily developed for recent migrants, former refugees and international students, Ms Newton says it will help anyone moving to Whanganui, whether from the North Shore, Norway, Thailand or Nigeria, become part of the community.
“The plan has real achievable actions, like improving access to information, promoting activities and services and celebrating cultural diversity and inclusion. These are just some examples of the 58 actions in the plan. They won’t all happen at the same time and it will be a community effort. We are really excited about seeing these actions become reality.”
Ms Puhipuhi says the plan is a collective effort between community groups who work with newcomers, the Council and the newcomers themselves so that everyone can thrive in and contribute to the Whanganui community.
“I was deeply humbled to be involved and to have Katy Newton from the Council come along to talk to ethnic people in our community.
“For me, the plan means that our communities have better access to services which are available and to work in collaboration with all ethnic groups. Most newcomers have the same needs and visions for their families as everyone else once they have made this beautiful place their home.
“It’s about local government having strategies and policies in place that will support us.”
Ms Puhipuhi, originally from Fiji, moved from central Auckland to Whanganui in 1982, initially teaching in Rānana, up the Whanganui River. She has supported newcomers to Whanganui and Rangitikei, especially Pasifika people, since she arrived here and is involved in two Pasifika early childcare centres in Whanganui.
Whanganui District Council is one of nine councils in five regions taking part in the Welcoming Community pilot programme, led by Immigration New Zealand in partnership with the Office of Ethnic Communities and supported by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission as part of a global movement to be purposefully welcoming to newcomers.
A Whanganui Welcoming Communities Advisory Group will meet regularly to monitor implementation of the plan and advocate for newcomers. Progress on the plan will be reviewed in 2020.