Wellington , New Zealand

Bringing Maori Culture to Newcomers: The Wellington Regional Settlement Strategy

Immigration New Zealand, Department of Labour

May 31, 2012

A collaborative approach to connect newcomers with Maori, the people of the land

Kia Ora. Welcome to Aotearoa New Zealand. For Pau Thang and his family, recent newcomers to Wellington from Burma (Myanmar), the traditional Kiwi welcome included a chance to connect with the culture and people of their new home at their local Marae, or Maori meeting house.

“We are very happy about it, because it was the first time we had experienced the Maori culture, so we really enjoyed it”.

The Marae Welcome Program is offered through Wellington’s newcomer services to people who have lived in New Zealand for less than five years and is a key strand of the broader the Wellington Regional Settlement Strategy (WRR). At the last New Zealand Census in 2006 about 23% of the Wellington region’s residents were born overseas. Slightly more than one quarter of this group were recent arrivals.

Welcoming Newcomers

The Marae Welcome Program connects newcomers to New Zealand’s indigenous people and helps them understanding the significance of Maori culture in New Zealand. Activities include educational workshops on the Treaty of Waitangi (the founding document of New Zealand as a nation), Maori culture, its language, and history. Interpreters are on hand to bridge the language barrier among participants.

Programming offers practical as well as cultural insights. For example, an overview of kaitiakitanga (the Maori role as guardians of the environment) shares Maori customs about caring for the land while informing newcomers about the country’s fishing protocols.

Responding to changing times

“Aotearoa (New Zealand) is different today from what it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago” reflects the Hon. Mahara Okeroa, a respected tribal leader and former Member of Parliament, “Today we are providing the welcome we should… I applaud the initiative.”

The New Migrant Marae Visits program is delivered through partnerships between local government and Maori Iwi in each of the five participating municipalities. Marae leaders worked with WRSS government advisors to ensure an optimal experience for newcomers and meaningful dialogue with the Maori people. Municipalities provided publicity and recruited participants through local settlement support coordinators working within each City Council.

Reaping the Rewards

“Thank you for this great opportunity to learn more about the culture in my new country,” says newcomer Anika from the Netherlands.

Feedback from participants and their Maori hosts has been enthusiastic. Local Marae report that their experience has helped connect them with newcomer communities. Several Marae have even incorporated a new migrant welcoming component into their annual Waitangi Day activities, which commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The partnership model has also strengthened connections between municipalities and local Marae and created a valuable context in which all parties can come together to discuss the impacts of migration and the changing demographics of local communities – sometimes with unintended consequences.

After participating in a newcomer welcome in Wellington City, a member of the Te Awe Maori Business Network reflected on the value of the international skills and connections of the newcomers in the room. As a result, the Te Awe Maori Business Network partnered with Wellington City Council to hold a Maori-Chinese Business Expo networking event. Success travels fast – a Business Expo with members of the Indian business community in now in development.

Making it Work for You:

  • Get the program off to a good start. Dedicated community development staff and targeted marketing strategies help ensure newcomers connect to the program.
  • Involving all stakeholders in the program design fosters strong ownership. Give community stakeholders the flexibility to tailor the content and type of program offered to reflect local needs and perspectives.
  • Part of relationship-building is continuing the dialogue. Marae and local government partnerships from across the region attended regional events to report on the program they co-developed, and share success stories with each other.

For this Good Idea contact:

Judi Altinkaya , Settlement Unit Immigration New Zealand
56 The Terrace
PO Box 3705
Wellington, New Zealand,

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