Celebrate the fact that we are all Kiwis: Melisaa Lee, National’s List MP based in Mt Albert, and also the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Communities

Born in Korea, and brought up in Malaysia, Melissa Lee moved to New Zealand as a young adult in 1988. What followed was over two decades of journalism in both print and television, including fifteen years as the presenter and producer on TVNZ’s Asia Dynamic and Asia Down Under with 600 episodes to her credit. In 2008, she entered Parliament as a National list MP, making her New Zealand’s first Korean MP. Alongside, she held positions as a Vice President of the Korean Society, Vice-President of the Korean Womens’ Association, Board member of the Asia-Pacific Producers’ Network, advisor to the National Unification Council of Korea, and an Asian advisor to the Auckland Police.

Integration vs assimilation: In conversation with Patrick O’Connor, director of PEETO, the Multi-Cultural Learning Centre, Christchurch

"I absolutely despise the word assimilation. I think it should be consigned to the dustbins of history. A similar such word is tolerance. These words inherently mean that there is one preferred way of doing things, and everyone should adhere to that. Among developed nations, France is the only one, which went on the path of assimilation due to its cultural arrogance and it’s been an absolute failure there. What we should do instead, is integration and acceptance. A rather simplistic analogy is that of a soup and fried rice. In a soup, you can’t taste the ingredients separately, which is possible in fried rice. I want our New Zealand society to be like fried rice."

Excellence: Abhinav Manota, a migrant, wins national badminton championship

Abhinav Manota, an Indian immigrant who came to New Zealand in 2014, to study Diploma in Business and Enterprise Management (Level 7) from Christchurch-based Abacus Institute of Studies, is now the new Zealand men's singles champion in Badminton. Describing his journey, he said, "Along with my studies, I started playing with Badminton Canterbury players when I was a bit settled in Christchurch. That gave me an opportunity to represent Canterbury in the nationals. Dylan saw my potential and invited me to shift to North Shore so that we can train together. I did. Nowadays, I train at least four hours everyday, and have equipment sponsorship from Badminton New Zealand. Their support in my success has been great."

Health and non-profit: In conversation with Kate Russell, chief executive of Canterbury Medical Research Foundation and commercial director of NZ Brain Research Institute

"Certainly not. Over 27,000 charities for a country our size, doesn't make any sense. Duplication and proliferation are the two major issues here. Firstly, we have to understand and acknowledge that a lot many charitable trusts are formed for tax avoidance purposes. The problem is once a charity passes the public benefit test in New Zealand, it doesn't have to pay any taxes. This is absurd. We need to change that. A charity should be able to accept donations and people who donate get tax reliefs. But the charity itself is not tax exempt. We need to divorce these two things."

Community: A week of climate action 2017

Democracy in action! MPs from all four major political parties putting their parties stand in front of the New Zealand public on April 27 at the Aurora Centre for Performing Arts. From left - Denis O'Rourke from NZ First, Megan Woods from Labour, Stuart Smith from National, and Kennedy Graham from Greens. Also on stage is350.org organiser Charles Drace. (picture credit: Elizabeth Guthrey)     

Education: ChristchurchNZ to launch this year

A number of organisations in the Christchurch and Canterbury region are merging into a single entity – ChristchurchNZ – in an effort to optimise the opportunities that tourism, international education, major events, city promotion and economic development can deliver. These include Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism (CCT), the Convention Bureau, Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC), Christchurch Educated, and the Christchurch City Council’s Major Events team. Together, their purpose is to "support prosperity, opportunity and a great quality of life in Christchurch and Canterbury". The new entity will be located in the new BNZ Centre, Cashel Mall once the premises are completed in July or August. One example of collaboration already underway is the Canterbury Job Ready Programme, designed and delivered by economic development, regional Chambers of Commerce, NZ Trade and Enterprise and the regional international education team.

Work and residence: Woodhouse usher in changes

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse on April 19 announced changes to permanent immigration settings include introducing two remuneration thresholds for applicants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), which will complement the current qualifications and occupation framework. One will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year for jobs that are currently considered skilled. The other threshold will be set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 a year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid. These changes will come into effect on August 14, 2017. He also proposed a number of changes to temporary migration settings to manage the number and settlement expectations of new migrants coming to New Zealand on Essential Skills work visas. Additionally, the minister announced a one-off pathway to residence for around 4,000 long-term temporary migrant workers and their families living in the South Island.

Food: Learn from what we eat programme's 5th session showcased Japanese food and culture

The Canterbury Japanese Society was invited to share the cuisine of Japan at the Health, food and culture session held in late April. It was a wonderful Sunday Autumn day at the Hagley Community College with 38 attendees looking, listening, learning and asking about the dishes being prepared and questions on other aspects of Japanese food and its history. Those attending arrived at 11am and listened to an introduction from Kevin Park, Community Liaison for the Canterbury Migrants Centre. Then the volunteers demonstrated the items - Salmon rice ball with a toasted nori sheet, Pan grilled Pork with Ginger, Chicken Teriyaki, Dashimaki Tamago (egg roll), Pickled Daikon (large white radish) and Carrot with Vinegar, Spicy & Mild Miso Soup, Brocolli with ground sesame, along with being shown how to make Japanese steamed rice using either a rice cooker or a pot.

Cabinet reshuffle: Know your government

Prime Minister Bill English on April 24 announced the appointment of Gerry Brownlee as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nathan Guy as Minister of Civil Defence, Nikki Kaye as Minister of Education and Mark Mitchell as Minister of Defence. In other changes Simon Bridges has been appointed Leader of the House and Nicky Wagner has been made Minister supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration. Tim Macindoe, National’s senior whip since the 2014 election, and Scott Simpson, have been appointed ministers outside cabinet.

The City dances to Indian classical tunes

Attended by over a hundred people, and performed by dancers of various skill-levels and ages – led by their teacher Anuradha Ambalavanar, the Bharatanatyam Group of Christchurch showcased its eighth annual dance recital in Christchurch on April 8. Ambalavanar, originally from Sri Lanka, who started the school 12 years back, has trained under Vivek Kinra, Artistic Director of New Zealand Academy of Bharatanatyam and Mudra Dance Company, Wellington.

Celebrations: Zimbabwe's 37th Independence Day celebrated in Canterbury

The Zimbabwean community in Canterbury celebrated their 37th Independence Day on April 22. Zimbabwe attained its independence from Britain on April 18, 1980. Since then it has been a very important day in the calendar of Zimbabwe. To mark this day, the Zimbabwean community in Canterbury came together to reflect on the journey of the country so far. The occasionwas well attended by Zimbabweans as well asother invited international communities in Christchurch.  The ceremony was officially opened with a karakia by Maori elder, Sally Pitama followed by our guest speaker, Hilton Chaza, who chronicled the history of Zimbabwe and the struggle that culminated in attainment of independence. Entertainment was provided by the the Chitongo African Band which mesmerized the crowd with their traditional beat from the heart of Zimbabwe.

Remembrance: On ANZAC Day - Let's also remember the 1,400 Indians killed at Gallipoli too!

As New Zealand paid tribute to the 102nd year of Gallipoli landings last week, historians across the Tasman are calling for greater acknowledgement of the important role Indian troops played during the eight-month-long campaign. In a new book titled, Die in Battle, Do not Despair: The Indians on Gallipoli, 1915, Peter Stanley, a military historian at the University of New South Wales in Australia, has challenged past historical records that had put the number of Indians who fought at one of World War I major battlegrounds at around 5,000. Drawing from previously unpublished official and private records from the UK (including forgotten British officers' memoirs), Australia and the National Archives of India, Professor Stanley has now put a powerful argument for revising this figure to 15,000.

Religious harmony: Uniquely India; Community celebrates Christian Easter and Hindu Vishu together

In what can be termed as an excellent example of religious harmony in New Zealand, and more so, shining a bright light on India's age-old diverse traditions, last weekend, Keralites [those from the southern Indian state of Kerala, also called Malayalis] in Christchurch celebrated Easter, a Christian festival, and Vishu, a Hindu festival, together. First up on Saturday, April 22, was the celebration by the Kerala Cultural Forum (KCF), which was formed in 2009. This was followed by the event on April 23, hosted by the oldest Malayali organisation in the City – since 2005 - the Christchurch Kerala Association (CKA).  

Celebrations: Buddha birthday celebrated at temple's 10th anniversary

One of the most sacred Buddhist festivals in the world, celebrating the birth, along with commemorating the enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha, which falls on May 3, this year, was celebrated in Christchurch on April 22. The event was co-organised by the Buddha's Light International Association (BLIA) South Island NZ and Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple (FGSBT) South Island, which reopened its door late last year after four years of intensive earthquake repairs. It was also the temple's 10th year of establishment, causing the celebrations to be bigger than usual.

In support of Sonny Bill Williams: an open letter to him

I write to you in the mist of your harshest criticism to date to offer and express my appreciation for what you have achieved in the past two weeks. This letter is to commend you for being true to yourself; for identifying who you are and believing in your kaupapa; for having the conscience to use your profile for causes you believe in; for standing by your decisions despite being criticised; and most importantly for furthering the understanding of Treaty based Multiculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Muhammad Yunus speaks: Social businesses and entrepreneurship should be encouraged in NZ

Highlights: Health concentration at the top worries me most; eight people owning more than the bottom 50 percent of the world's population is unsustainable in the long run; I believe in working towards three zeros - zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero net carbon emission; The way to tackle unemployment and get people out of welfarism is to empower them and encourage entrepreneurship


Hit and Run: My book is dedicated to New Zealand military - Nicky Hager, author and investigative journalist

Nicky Hager, author of Hit and Run, co-written with war correspondent Jon Stephenson, addressing the gathering on April 6, at the Transitional Cathedral in Christchurch. The public meeting was organised by the Christchurch Progressive Network led by last year's mayoral candidate John Minto. "The book is about what the New Zealand military – and especially the Special Air Service (SAS) – did in Afghanistan in response to the first New Zealander dying in combat in August 2010," said Hager while releasing the book in March.