|29 August 2002|
Immigration fear nothing new in a country of migrants, Metropolitan Mayors’ head says
Calling immigrants invaders and describing New Zealand’s immigration policy as treasonous is, “a pretty sad way to get attention,” says Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore.
He was speaking as head of the Metropolitan Mayors group of Local Government New Zealand about Wednesday’s speech in Parliament by Winston Peters, the leader of New Zealand First.
Mr Moore says immigration makes New Zealand cities richer, financially and culturally. Concern about new migrants is understandable because it has always been the case, but history shows it is a misplaced fear.
“When I was younger, I remember the old people at the Irish Society talking about the signs that used to hang outside factories when they first came out here from Ireland. They said `INNA’. It meant Irish Need Not Apply.
“There’s always been a race prejudice against the latest migrants and it’s easy to pick on a group of people that are just coming in and getting themselves settled, but this country’s human history is all immigration, from the Maori right through to today.
“Over time we settle in and become Kiwis and contribute to society,” Mr Moore says. “It’s not something to be afraid of.”
This may be a good time to talk about immigration, but Mr Peters is wrong to create uncertainty among new New Zealanders.
“There’s no need for Pauline Hanson-type thinking in this country and I’m really sorry that Winston Peters is trying to create cultural tension,” Mr Moore says. “I’d welcome the opportunity to have a national discussion about immigration. I think we need more.
In the case of Christchurch, migration figures for the year to March show the city has turned around a four-year run of losses, with the number of foreign residents coming in continuing to rise and fewer New Zealanders leaving. In the March 2002 year the city gained by more than 1500 people. Mr Moore is keen for the migration numbers to remain positive.
“For cities like Christchurch migrants make us grow and become more cosmopolitan, they bring colour and vibrancy and considerable economic benefits,” he says. “They help us to become more comfortable with the wider world and we welcome them.”