Migrants enrich the social and cultural fabric of our local communities as well: Winton Dalley, Hurunui Mayor
South Island is changing. Even the so-called "whitest regions" are beginning to realise the fruits of immigration. This newspaper caught up with Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley to guage his thoughts on the changing demographics of his district.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I live inland Amberley, in the old country of Waikari, where I have been farming for the last 40 years. I have been the mayor of Hurunui District Council for the last six years. Prior to that, I was the district councillor for six years.
Has the demographic of Hurunui changed in the last five years?
Oh, massively! We have quite a major wine growing industry here in Hurunui. In fact, our wine-growing Waipara Valley is the fourth largest in New Zealand, which is heavily dependent on migrant labour. The workers are mainly here on short-term work visas, during the pruning and harvesting season. Then they go back home taking their substantial incomes to their families. In general, the community is very receptive and appreciative of the migrants. And the migrant labours have always displayed excellent work ethics, and very good work-rate and productivity.
How does the District Council makes sure that these migrant labourers feel connected to the local community?
We work on multiple levels with several community organisations as there are multiple strains to this. Such as, we facilitate churches which look after the migrants after they arrive here. In turn, the local culture also gets enriched, and we all benefit.
Recently, we have taken a new initiative, for which I had the vision for a number of years, but it got materialise just now.
We have appointed three community connector across the district, who make connection with the migrant labours as soon as they arrive in Hurunui. They provide the migrants with general info on health, education, social welfare, as well as help them in integrating with the local community.
You are going to attend the Canterbury Mayoral Forum this week. Is a discussion on migrant issues on cards?
Certainly! Though Ashburton's Mayor is the lead on that, and policy announcements, if any, will be made after the Forum.
See, the mayor forum project is a very good initiative for coordination across Canterbury and is aimed at sharing what all good every district is doing with one another. This also includes measures for integrating migrants into our local culture even better.
As every district's demands are different - we need wine and dairy workers while Christchurch needs more construction workers – we can always tweak good initiatives to suit our needs.
Finally, what's your message to new and potential migrants to the Hurunui district?
Simple. You are most welcome here!
Our experience with migrants has been amazing. While the economic benefits are obvious, I look at the holistic picture. Migrants enrich the social and cultural fabric of our local communities as well.