Government pours millions of dollars into helping councils promote 'diversity and inclusion'

Millions of dollars are being poured into a programme that is being rolled out across the country aimed at helping councils promote "diversity and inclusion". 

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said on Friday the Government will allocate more than $6.6 million for the Welcoming Communities programme over four years. 

The programme acts as a call to action for councils to lead collaborative efforts to ensure their local communities are welcoming, and a standard sets out a benchmark for what success would look like.

The Welcoming Communities Standard includes inclusive leadership, welcoming public spaces, opportunities to access services, and creating a "shared sense of pride" in culture and identity. 

A pilot of the scheme has run over the last two years led by Immigration New Zealand, involving 10 councils across five regions and the Office of Ethnic communities. 

Some of the participating councils included Tauranga City Council, Invercargill City Council, Gore District Council, Palmerston North City Council, and Whanganui District Council. 

The programme is part of an international 'welcoming' movement. Similar initiatives operate in Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States.

Councils can opt to become accredited as a Welcoming Community by meeting the standard through a phased accreditation process, but the formal accreditation is yet to be developed. 

"Helping newcomers feel welcome and included in the places they have chosen to live is what Welcoming Communities is all about," the Immigration Minister said Friday. 

"Welcoming activities enable local residents to connect with newcomers in their communities, including recent migrants, former refugees, international students, and Kiwis from other parts of the country."

Lees-Galloway said the pilot found participating councils noticed an "explicit shift" in locals taking a "welcoming" role in the community, and noted a "positive change" in awareness of "diversity and inclusion". 

Additional councils will be invited to submit expressions of interest in joining the expanded programme later this year.

It comes as the Government unveiled its three-year refugee quota policy, which includes abolishing a requirement introduced by National for refugees from Africa and the Middle East to have family already in New Zealand. 

National described it as an "opportunity" for family reunification. The majority of refugees resettled in New Zealand through the Refugee Quota Programme are resettled as family groups.

The Green Party campaigned on removing the restriction at the 2017 election.

The Greens' immigration spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said she is "proud to be part of a Government that is demonstrating its commitment to the idea that human rights are universal - regardless of race, nationality or religion". 

The refugee quota was increased by the Government last year from 1000 to 1500 for 2020. 


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