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South Island Councils open welcoming arms

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is delighted to announce Marlborough District Council, Waitaki District Council, Westland District Council and Hurunui District Council are among the latest group of councils to join the Welcoming Communities programme.

Eight new Councils are joining the Programme, designed to create inclusive environments where all residents can thrive and belong.

“We are grateful for the enthusiasm shown and the desire from Councils around the country to be part of such an important initiative that began five years ago,” says Fiona Whiteridge, General Manager of Refugee and Migrant Services INZ.

There are now 26 Councils taking part in the Welcoming Communities programme. Nationally thirty-eight per cent of city and district councils are now committed to making their communities more welcoming for everyone. In the South Island 14 of the 23 councils are involved, nearly 60 per cent.

Marlborough District Council Mayor John Leggett says “the Marlborough region has grown in diversity for several decades and becoming part of the Welcoming Communities Initiative is a positive step forward in drawing our community together to celebrate and acknowledge all newcomers. As well as socially enriching our community, the local economy continues to strengthen thanks to people choosing Marlborough to be their place to live and work. I am proud to welcome new members to our community, alongside our key stakeholders and residents, and look forward to fostering an environment that is welcoming, safe, and offers newcomers a sense of belonging.”

Waitaki District Mayor Gary Kircher says “It is fantastic news to hear that Waitaki’s application to become a Welcoming Community has been approved. Over the past twenty years or so, our district has become home to many new people, both from within and from outside Aotearoa New Zealand. They have been critical not only to our economy, but also to our great schools, and our broader culture. This has seen Oamaru become home to the highest percentage of pasifika anywhere in NZ, and for the overall number of different ethnicities to increase significantly. We look forward to the Welcoming Communities initiative delivering even more for our Waitaki!”

Westland District Council Deputy Mayor David Carruthers shares much the same perspective to his colleagues. "The Westland community has thrived through its rich history of immigration and is already very diverse with people from many different cultures living and working here. Having such diversity in our community allows our citizens to broaden their cultural horizons and gain a better understanding of the world. We want to ensure that anyone who comes to live in Westland feels welcomed and to lead the way in encouraging people to settle and become part of the fabric of our district."

Hurunui District Council Mayor Marie Black is delighted that her Council is involved in the Welcoming Communities Programme. “A culturally rich community brings fresh perspective and vibrance that is incredibly valued. It is important to us that our community is supportive, welcoming, and feels like home to all newcomers who choose to stay.”

The other four Councils joining the Programme this intake include Napier City, Rotorua Lakes District, Upper Hutt City, and South Wairarapa District. Their involvement follows the three Councils that joined the programme in early 2022 – Nelson City, Tasman District, and Hastings District.

“This programme is an incredibly important tool for building strong and integrated communities, for making newcomers, no matter their background, feel included, so everyone can thrive,” says Ms Whiteridge.

More on the accreditation programme:

Welcoming Communities supports councils and their communities to create welcoming environments for newcomers, specifically recent migrants, former refugees and international students.

The programme involves local residents in developing, delivering and participating in welcoming activities. This approach increases social engagement and provides opportunities to build social connections.

Immigration New Zealand provides funding, resources, accreditation, best practice information, networking opportunities, programme evaluation and guidance to participating councils.


Media enquiries:

Westland District Council - Emma Rae,

Waitaki District Council - Sonia Martinez,

Marlborough District Council - Glyn Walters,

Hurunui District Council - Lauren Ruffell,

Welcoming Communities –

Aroha Tanirau

Senior Advisor, Engagement & Communications

Immigration New Zealand

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment | Hīkina Whakatutuki