Feedback sought on welcome plan

"Support and empowerment" .... Gore district council community empowerment coordinator Mark McCann presented a welcome plan for newcomers at a community strategy meeting this month.

The people of Gore can have their say on how newcomers are welcomed to the town.

Gore District councillors agreed to release the council’s welcome plan for public consultation at a community strategy meeting earlier this month.

In a report tabled at the meeting, community empowerment co-ordinator Mark McCann said a workshop for newcomers helped form the foundations of the plan.

The workshop was hosted by the council and the International Connect Group and “highlighted various challenges and concerns facing those people who are new to the Gore community, as well as the aspects which are appreciated and loved about the Gore community”, he said.

The plan consisted of 32 actions which included community walks, a buddy system for newcomers, English language lessons, welcome packs and support for newcomers to find employment.

“The plan includes opportunities and initiatives aimed at raising cultural awareness and overcoming barriers to integration for both the local community and newcomers,” Mr McCann said at the meeting.

“The plan itself is about support and empowerment.”

The International Connect Group already had initiatives in place to support the plan, he said.

“A lot of good things come from that group. They’ve started up new clubs of their own which are very inclusive of the local community as well. We really will hit the ground running with this.”

There is a clear need for a welcome plan for newcomers, Mr McCann said.

“We have at least 45 ethnicities in the Gore District and we’re still counting. That represents at least 8% of the Gore District population according to the last census. According to Stats New Zealand projections, this number is going to increase.”

These numbers do not include international students or people from the UK, the US, Australia and other areas of New Zealand.

The Gore district was part of the “welcoming community pilot scheme” along with 16 other councils, Mr McCann said.

“As part of the agreement we have with Immigration New Zealand, we need to produce a welcome plan for the area.

“Immigration New Zealand themselves have been very interested in the approach which we’ve taken which reflects the newcomer voices themselves rather than what we want to do for them and they are proposing that we feed forward this approach to other councils.”

The report was well received by councillors at the meeting.

Cr Bronwyn Reid said the feedback from newcomers was interesting.

“One of the things I did notice is that we do pride ourselves on being friendly, but maybe we’re not that friendly.

“As time goes on we’re going to have a lot more different ethnicities and New Zealanders from different parts of the country as well coming down, so I think we’re on to a good thing.”

Mayor Tracy Hicks said the direction of the plan was fantastic.

“I look forward to seeing what feedback we do get from the wider community.”

Gore residents can find the plan and give their feedback on the council website. Consultation closes on December 9.

Mr McCann said a representative group from the workshop would go through the feedback and present the plan to council again in the new year.