I want to begin by acknowledging Ahmed Tani who has been a constant and committed volunteer since the Christchurch Refugee Resettlement Centre started operating over 12 years ago – originally as the Refugee Council. Thank you for hosting us today.
The Centre is an important part of a very strong sector with significant expertise in refugee resettlement in the city, many of whom are present in this room today.
Christchurch has long valued the contribution made by refugees to the social, cultural and economic fabric of the city. The impact of the earthquakes on those communities was particularly hard, having been through so much before.
And yet we saw amazing examples of the deep seated resilience this had engendered. Many of the Somali community banded together after the earthquake and volunteered to clear liquefaction and the women cooked for the Police and Army at the cordons in a strong display of solidarity.
What is heartening though, is that our incredible support network of agencies survived the departure of a number of members of our refugee communities and the subsequent suspension of quota refugees to the city, and are still providing excellent services.
Refugees have brought a rich and diverse range of cultures and experiences to our city.
We have embraced that diversity and every month I have the honour of bestowing citizenship on many refugees. That is particularly gratifying when I have been part of their resettlement story as an MP or Minister of Immigration and now as Mayor.
Today’s announcement is another milestone in Christchurch’s recovery story. This is an important statement of who we are and what aspire to be.
At the citizenship ceremonies, I always comment that many of the candidates have to give up their citizenship of birth when they choose to become New Zealand citizens. However as I say, in so doing none of them severs their ties with their home of birth; they bring their language, their culture, their values and their history with them, and they nurture them in their children. And we, the wider community, are enriched by their experience and all that they bring to our city.
A year ago our council adopted a Multicultural Strategy. This action brings it to life and makes it meaningful.
But make no mistake. Today would not have happened without the refugees who have resetttled here and made Christchurch their home, and all the agencies and services that have established and maintained the supportive and caring environment this resettlement programme demands.
Thank you to each and every one of you and to you Minister and the officials who have expressed confidence in Christchurch in this special way.