The Government could do more to resettle refugees in rural areas, campaigner says
As a tour promoting a refugee quota increase moves up the country, rural regions are saying they would be happy to host newcomers.
Doing Our Bit campaign founder Murdoch Stephens said he had seen a lot of positive sentiment in places where refugees were not currently settled.
"The mayor of Timaru said that they had the infrastructure and they would love to welcome refugees if the Government allowed them."
Overseas programmes such as the Australian Rural Resettle Model, which placed 2000 people each year into rural environments also tried to match refugees from rural backgrounds.
Stephens said a large contingent of New Zealand's refugees come from Myanmar, many of whom were farmers who had lived in rural areas.
"If the Government wanted to match people to their skills there is so much more they could do, and places like Masterton and Wairarapa would be perfect."
Masterton is set to host the campaign tour next Wednesday. The keynote speaker will be cycling race director Jorge Sandoval, one of New Zealand's most prominent and outspoken refugees.
Sandoval fled oppression at the hands of the Pinochet regime in his native Chile in the 1970s.
"I think New Zealand needs more refugees, particularly in the Wairarapa. This place would be perfect ... it's a very close community," he said.
Government support was crucial. "When I came as a refugee 40 years ago it was totally different from now. ... I had to find a job, do everything, find a house and I didn't know anything about how to do it."
Doing Our Bit campaign's main focus is to persuade the Government to do two things: double the number of people taken into the country as refugees and double the funding to support them after they arrived.
Political parties such as the Greens and Opportunities Party had refugee increases as part of their policies, Stephens said.
REFUGEE: ARE WE DOING OUR BIT?
* The world is facing the most displacement since WWII. More than 60 million are displaced with 20 million of those as refugees.
* Australia has five times our population but takes 18 times our refugee intake.
* The Government plans to increase the quota to 1000 by 2018.
* Doing Our Bit calculates the quota now should be 1541 taking into account population growth since the quota was first set in 1987.
* New Zealand has offered 600 extra places for Syrian refugees over three years, but Doing Our Bit points out that Australia is accepting four times as many per capita, and have done so in half the time.
North Island Pledge Tour dates
25 July Wellington. Sustainability Trust.
26 July Masterton. Reformed Church of Masterton.
27 July Hawkes Bay. All Saints Taradale.
28 July Palmerston North. Hancock Community Centre.
1 August Whanganui. Quaker Meeting Hall.
2 August New Plymouth. Fitzroy Surf Life Saving Club.
3 August Rotorua. St Luke's Anglican Church.
4 August Tauranga. St George's, Gate Pa.
8 August Hamilton. Settlement Centre Waikato.
9 August Auckland central. Auckland Unitarian Church.
14 August Takapuna. Lake House Arts Centre.
16 August Whangarei. OneOneSix