Migrant Issues are Important: Mayor
As the Canterbury Migrants Centre Trust launches the first-ever migrant newspaper in the South Island, The Migrant Times editor Gaurav caught up with Christchurch's City Mayor Lianne Dalziel for a quick chat on her thoughts about the prevailing migrant issues in the city, and whether Christchurch is ready to accept, as well as culturally, socially and economically integrate migrants of different ethnicities within its folds.
The Christchurch City Council supports various cultural events organised by different migrant groups throughout the year. What is the reasoning behind that?
To bring people together and celebrate each others culture! The City Council is of the view that there has to be support for different cultural groups to be able to celebrate their festivals with the wider community. That's why whether it is the Indian Diwali, Japan Day, Korea Day, or Chinese Lantern Festival, we support and facilitate such celebrations. It's not about Kiwis versus migrants. Rather it is about en-richening the local culture of New Zealand. Even community boards have come together now and are organising festivals such as Culture Galore, where not one but many cultures are celebrated.
So while such celebrations are indeed praiseworthy, socially, do you think the city is ready to acceptmigrants?
Yes, I think so! In many respects, the disruption of the earthquakes has aided the process somewhat. This so because now when a new migrant comes into the city, to find work is not that difficult. And gainful employment means he or she is already connected in the economy, which in turn generates a sense of belonging. So I would say that Christchurch is much better now as a city where everyone is made to feel welcome at a social level.
But what about the optics? Last year's Santa parade in Riccarton had a Monster truck flying a white-supremacist flag. Even the local rugby club is named Crusaders. And all of us know the history of Crusades. Optics do matter in a society, don't you think?
See while all of us know the history of the Crusades, people here have not taken the view around the name of Crusaders in that context. So it hasn't been an issue at all. It's the city's local club, which plays the game of rugby, and is not at all focussed or related to the historical significance of what Crusades meant centuries ago.
Finally, you said because of the rebuild migrant get jobs in Christchurch, which means they don’t have to struggle integrating. But almost every migrant story here invariably start with either driving a taxi or working in supermarkets. Why is this so then?
Actually, this is not true. Yes, rebuild brought migrant workers in construction. But with that came an entire support industry. Moreover, other sectors such as health brought in a lot of migrants including many nurses from the Philippines. Our farming or the diary industry cannot survive without the migrant workers. So we see migrants in almost every economic sector of New Zealand's economy.
But, yes, the issue about highly-qualified migrants driving taxis do exists. Though as a former minster of immigration, I must say that such numbers have reduced a lot.
Because earlier, while people got their residencies based on points gained via academic qualifications, those qualifications were not recognised in New Zealand. There were registration issues. In such cases, driving taxis was the fall-back option.
But now the rules have changed. You don’t get the points for residency based on academic qualifications unless those are properly registered and recognised in New Zealand.
Also, it not a Christchurch or a New Zealand issue alone. Highly-qualified migrants face this issue all over the world.
But in Christchurch, we take this issue very seriously. That's why we had set-up a Multicultural Working Party led by Councillor Jimmy Chen to develop the City's Multicultural Strategy, which will soon be up for debate and public consultation.
Its the starting point for all of us to think about what will happen to the migrant workers after the rebuild. And also what steps can be taken to ensure those who came for the rebuild can stay here and successfully integrate into the social fabric of Christchurch.