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Lianne Dalziel Speech: Partnership key to success

Lianne Dalziel Speech: Partnership is the Key to Success

Mayor, Garry, City Councillors, Arthur Gordon, Ann Crighton , Oscar Alpes, Parliamentary Colleagues, Tim Barnett, Marc Alexander, Mark S Kaiwhakahare, Te Runake o Ngai Tahi, Weng Kei Chen, President of the Federation of Ethnic Councils,staff of government agencies, invited guests, friends - tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katua..

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this evening about the role of partnership in the context of the inaugural meeting of the Intercultural Assembly.

Last Friday, I was in Auckland to open the first Regional Migrant Resource Centre developed under the Immigration settlement pilot programme. As I said on the occasion of the opening, it is not the first migrant resource centre, but it is the first regional resource centre, designed as a platform for the establishment of satellite centres. The model utilises the best of partnership between central government, local government and community.

Central government is represented by NZIS, (funding for administration through Migrant Levy), Housing Corporation NZ, (professional fit out of premises and initial assistance with lease), Work & Income, (providing an on-site brokerage service), and the Ministry of Education & TEC (piloting an ESOL assessment programme).

Local government is represented by the Auckland City Council and the Manukau City Council. Both mayors and Chief Executives provided leadership from the top, and allocated staff for the project. Auckland City used the occasion to launch a new pamphlet about Auckland in 7 languages. The Community is represented by Citizens Advice Bureau, which has set up a mini office in the Centre and provided a link to their Mandarin advice line.

The Centre has nearly 20 staff, with a variety of ethnic backgrounds and languages represented. In addition migrant communities were surveyed as to need before the Centre was designed, and a stocktake of existing services was undertaken, to ensure that both duplication and gaps were identified and addressed.

This simply would not have happened without a partnership approach being identified from the outset. It did take a little longer as a result, but that is okay, because the buy-in is there - everyone is committed to a shared set of objectives.

I could use a local example, the Aranui Community Renewal process, where Housing NZ, Christchurch City and the local community have all had to learn new ways of doing things, so that the partnership can be a genuine one. I am positive that the strength of the results will be enhanced by the strength of the partnership. Sometimes central and local government have the view that it must be done a particular way, but that attitude stands in the way of innovative solutions being driven from the communities themselves. For example the contract requirements that trade contracts have training hours allocated to the local high school academy and demolition work have a local labour component were requirements sought by the community.

The concept of an Intercultural Assembly is an inclusive one, and that is its strength. No-one is excluded by definition.

As I often say, New Zealand is a migrant nation, and there is not one New Zealander that does not have a migrant story in their past.

Each of us, or one of our forebears, made a journey to make Aotearoa/New Zealand home - by waka, by ship or by plane - the journey is our common heritage and one of the foundation stones of our nation.

If we start from that point, then our meeting today is in fact the co-incidence in time of those journeys, and an opportunity to share the experiences of those journeys - they are our common bond.

One of the difficulties I have experienced as Minister of Immigration is the way I should consult with Maori on immigration issues. I am currently working with the Associate Minister, Tariana Turia, on a pre-consultation model, so that all the issues can be placed on the table for the consultation process. I want the process itself to be meaningful, however, there are as many views among Maori as there are among the wider population. Therefore an exploratory process that identifies issues for wider debate and consideration is favoured.

The same is actually true of the non-Maori population. It is my firm belief that if we are to have a truly inclusive society, then attitudes to diversity have to shift from tolerance to acceptance of the benefits of that diversity.

Being part of a community means more than living in a house in a particular neighbourhood. It means engagement with neighbours, local businesses and the wider community. The essence of community lies in shared values, mutual respect for rights and obligations and an understanding and appreciation of diversity of views, experience and beliefs. When we are born into that community, we often take all of these things for granted. When we move into a community, it takes time to build the relationships upon which communities are founded. This can be a difficult period for any newcomer to an area, so you can imagine that the experience for someone not born in New Zealand requires more effort on both sides of the equation, and that this is increased exponentially when familiarity in the predominant language of the community is one that has had to be learned. Migrant settlement is not a one-way process. It is not something that can be 'done' for someone, and it is not something that a migrant can 'do' on their own.

Welcoming communities are an integral component of successful settlement and resettlement policies, in the same way as an unwelcoming environment is a barrier.

And at the same time, 'new Kiwis' must be willing to be part of their new communities and contribute to New Zealand's social and economic well-being. The allegory I have used is that the migrant who is willing to engage is the key, and a welcoming community, equally willing to engage, is the lock - together they create a strong and secure environment for and with each other.

At a community level this means being willing to make the first move, to learn more about the countries from where our new neighbours have come, as well as the cultures they bring. The Christchurch Press has played a significant role in this regard, by publishing such stories, and I commend them for it.

It also means that we shouldn't expect migrants to suppress their cultures in adapting to a new environment. New Zealanders should be able to learn from other cultures and celebrate the diversity that they bring to our communities.

That doesn't mean we give up anything of who or what we are or believe, but that we gain knowledge and we experience difference in a positive way. Some women who come here are surprised to find the freedom women experience here - that degree of difference can be frightening to both sides, which is why we must encourage open discussion about our culture and that of our new neighbours, so we can learn to live together.

On a government level, I believe our responsibility requires us to debate immigration issues in a respectful way, so that we don't have a debate around people who can feel unable to respond. This is not a call for 'political correctness', it is rather a call for the debate to be informed, rational and balanced, enabling everyone to participate instead of creating a climate of fear and prejudice.

I have often said that knowledge is a powerful weapon against prejudice, which is in itself fuelled by a lack of knowledge or misinformation.

The Intercultural Assembly shows Christchurch again taking a leadership role by developing an inclusive environment for debating opinions and disseminating information to the wider community. It does not diminish the roles of the individual organisations that make up the Assembly - in fact, it enhances those roles, because we are all better informed.

The principles of partnership upon which the assembly is founded will guarantee its success, but more importantly could model the framework for the wider debate that needs to be had on population issues.

I believe it is time we held a follow up Population conference to the 1997 Conference. This could provide an opportunity to construct a nationwide debate, based on fact rather than headline seeking political rhetoric.

A Population & Sustainable Development Discussion Document is to be released soon, and it provides some interesting information about the anticipated changes to our population, which will enable us to understand and debate the implications of an ageing population and one which will have more than half its population Maori and Pacific by the year 2050.

This means that Maori and Pacific peoples must be involved not as participants but as partners in the debate.

I believe the next decade will be one of the most important facing New Zealand, as we establish a foundation for the future. The Inter-cultural Assembly ensures that Christchurch will be well-placed to participate in the debate and in the future.

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