Welcoming Communities is a pilot programme led by Immigration New Zealand working in partnership with the Office of Ethnic Communities and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.
This programme has been developed in recognition that communities are healthier, happier and more productive when newcomers are welcomed, and participate fully in society and the local economy.
Southland has been selected as one of five New Zealand regions to launch the Welcoming Communities pilot.
Leading the programme in Southland is the Welcoming Communities Advisory Group which consists of representatives from Invercargill City Council, Southland District Council, and Gore District Council. Working alongside Venture Southland staff, the Advisory Group has been working hard over the past couple of months to finalise the Southland/Murihiku Welcoming Plan.
The Southland/Murihiku Welcoming Plan aims to develop a sense of belonging for newcomers through a range of activities and projects that celebrate diversity, and encourage social, cultural and economic participation.
The Plan outlines and prioritises the actions and regional projects that will be carried out to help Southland become accredited as a “Welcoming Community” according to the New Zealand National Welcoming Communities Standard.
These actions and regional projects include:
- Centralising welcoming information and through the development of a “one stop welcoming shop”;
- Establish a regional hub and framework by partnering with community organisations and “Welcoming Touchpoints”;
- Partner with local organisations to collate key welcoming information into “welcome packs” for new arrivals;
- Encourage an ongoing seminar series that provides cultural competency training to foster cultural knowledge between newcomers, local businesses, and the community.
- Develop and promote a “Welcoming Southland” brand.
The point of difference for this programme is that where previous settlement initiatives focused primarily on supporting newcomers, Welcoming Communities extends its approach to actively involve members of the receiving communities in welcoming activities. This new approach focuses on building strong connections between local residents and new arrivals.
Through the ongoing implementation of the Murihiku/Southland Welcoming Plan, the challenge is now over to us all in embracing this welcoming approach, to get involved, and help make Southland the most welcoming place possible.