Wanganui is to have one of the country's two one-stop-shops catering for the needs of new migrants, Rangitikei/Wanganui Multicultural Council president Vijeshwar Prasad says.
The Rangitikei/Wanganui council is part of the New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils (NZFMC). The Todd Foundation has given the federation $80,000, aimed at helping ethnic/refugee communities.
The federation has decided to spend $60,000 of that on setting up one office each in the North and South islands.
Mr Prasad said five North Island councils applied to have the office in their towns, and the Rangitikei/Wanganui application won. His council now has $30,000 to set up a one-stop-shop for new migrants and pay a part-time co-ordinator to work in it.
That funding will last for a year, and he hopes to collect evidence of success and keep the office going after that, funded by grants and donations.
It was good for migrants to stay within their own communities, he said, but also to mix and mingle with others.
The main purpose of the office would be educational - a place for anybody interested meet others of all ethnicities, form friendships and learn more about other cultures. It would also raise consciousness among ethnic groups about the special status of the Maori people as tangata whenua (people of the land).
Migrants would go there to get practical information about jobs, schools, doctors and housing.
There were growing numbers of diverse ethnic groups in Wanganui, Mr Prasad said, and that could be judged just by walking through Trafalgar Square Shopping Centre, Wanganui's only mall.
There were about 15 new Indian families in the last year, for example, and Mr Prasad said there were still jobs out there for people who wanted them.
"There are not many Indians and other (migrants) on the dole. That's what I'm very proud of."
Getting the federation's North Island office was a recognition of the good work done in Wanganui for new migrants, he said. The South Island office will be in Dunedin.
The Todd Foundation is a private family philanthropic body. One of its aims is inclusive communities, and it gave away a total of $4.8 million last year.
* Mr Prasad is inviting Marton and Wanganui leaders to a December 11 meeting, to discuss the formation of the multicultural office. The meeting will be at 5.30pm at the Wanganui Racecourse, and NZFMC project manager Sheryn Elborn, from Wellington, will be there to outline the project.
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