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Multicultural Marlborough

Last Modified: 23-6-2017 15:14

New Zealander is a nation founded on migration, but as New Zealanders we're sometimes a bit ambivalent in our attitude to new arrivals.

In Maori oral genealogies the names of waka ancestors arrived on are remembered, and various plaques preserve the names of European pioneers. A couple of years ago I showed my wife my great, great, grandfather's name engraved on the Nelson waterfront along with the name of the ship he arrived on, and I remember hearing about the 'First four ships' on numerous occasions from my grandmother in Christchurch.

Often it's possible to hear Pakeha New Zealanders voicing their fears about New Zealand 'being sold out to foreigners'. Ironically many of these people haven't given much thought to the fact that this happened already to Maori although in rather more violent terms than simply 'selling out'. The problem has never been foreigners, but attitude, both by foreigners and New Zealanders. While Maori and Pakeha conflict might gain headlines there are also plenty of stories from our history of Maori and Pakeha who got along fine together. The same applies today as people from different nations settle in New Zealand. All bring with them their own cultures, but most want to learn and adapt to our kiwi culture, not just recreate and impose their own culture. It was great to see how many recent migrants of many nationalities took the opportunity to visit Omaka Marae on Waitangi Day.

Our founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi laid down the principle that those people who here first should have their lifestyle and traditions respected by those who arrive later, and that's a principle that all of us born here should want to see honoured. The other side of the equation is that the treaty was drawn up with the intention to facilitate immigration in an orderly manner.

Marriage to a migrant has made me take a fresh look at who I am as a New Zealander, as I've tried to explain who we are as a nation. My Brazilian wife has taught me a lot about her culture, but she in turn is keen to learn about New Zealand culture. Together we've explored much more of New Zealand and what it is to be a New Zealander than I ever did when I took New Zealand for granted.

If you're a kiwi, whether you're Maori or Pakeha, if you know some migrants, take the opportunity to share with them what it is that's special to you about New Zealand. If you are a migrant, get to know some kiwis and share your culture with them, and let them teach you about ours. If you'd like to do something, but don't know where to start, the Marlborough Multicultural Festival on the 27th at Pollard Park is a great opportunity, or if you miss that, the Marlborough Migrant Centre is always available to help put people in touch.

 

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