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Watch NZH Local Focus: Hastings' biggest citizenship ceremony

By Kaysha Brownlie

Kowhai trees are native to New Zealand.

The people who receive them during Hastings citizenship ceremonies aren't - but they're given as a symbol of their new home.

Eima Tamoaieta, originally from Kiribati, says she will put the tree in her house to remind of her the night she was officially made a New Zealand citizen.

Hastings District Council Chief Executive Ross McLeod introduced Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule: "Your Worship, we have here this evening, people who have been resident here in New Zealand for some time, who are ready, willing and fully prepared to take the oath or affirmation of allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second."

One hundred and fifteen people became New Zealand citizens during the ceremony - the district's biggest yet - so big it was moved to a new location - Lindisfarne College.

The Mayor says Hastings District Council has been unable to keep up with the increased influx of immigrants into the district, and have held more ceremonies as a result, "and that is a wonderful thing, it shows the diversity in our community, it shows how we are changing as a nation and I welcome you in that spirit".

The mega ceremony comes hot on the heels of a warning - from the Maxim Institute - that the regions face stagnation and in some cases decline.

But - recent Statistics New Zealand figures show the region's population is expected to grow to 12,800 over the next three decades.

This reflects a recent rise in immigration.

Karmi Van Der Merwe, originally of South Africa says: "I prefer the smaller regions where you get more of a community than a big place."

Amamjot Gill says: "It's good to be here."

Eima Tamoaieta, who has lived in Hastings for several years now, says she is happy to have finally received citizenship in her new home.

Places like Auckland and Canterbury are expected to have the biggest population growth.

But Hastings' newest citizens say the Hawke's Bay community has well and truly won them over.

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- NZ Herald

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