WHEN it comes to taking a constructive position on an issue of consequence to Whanganui, our MP, Harete Hipango, seems never to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity to rise above partisanship or mugwumpery, as her recent post (since deleted) on refugee resettlement provides example.
The Government's plan to establish five refugee resettlement centres is one of lofty humanitarian intention. Unfortunately, we all know where good intentions may lead.
While I disagree with Ms Hipango's reflexive and partisan characterisation of the "Labour government's policy as ill-conceived" there's little question but that the manner of the roll-out of this refugee policy is a recipe for disaster.
For those seemingly responsible for implementation — Katy Newton — there is already a picture of success. It's having these newcomers ""participate fully in society and in the local economy" with a " a net economic gain" to our district. It's the getting from here to there that's not so clear.
For refugee resettlement to succeed, there needs to be a significant community buy-in. The announcement from Minister Lees-Galloway of the policy has all the earmarks of a decision from on high. To get the citizenry on side, what's needed is community consultation and a sharing of information. The alternative, keeping us in the dark, risks exciting some of the darker impulses of nativism possessed by some in this or any community.
Rather than feed into fixed opposition as the partisan posture of Ms Hipango does, let's acknowledge a valid skepticism, born of the reality that we of the regions are only recently coming back to some economic growth after nine years of neglect by central government in favour of the Auckland megalopolis. We still have empty stores on Victoria Ave.
And, let's face it, it's easier to be generous and welcoming when you're feeling prosperous.
If Lees-Galloway wants his policy to succeed he needs to do some better spade work to soften up resistance to the unknown. We need information. And inclusion,
In the first place, how was the choice of the centres made? What qualifies our city more than some others?
Here the fact of Lees-Galloway's role as MP for Palmerston North, a more prosperous city, raises the suspicion of the NIMBY effect. I'm not happy with that suspicion, but it's better to get that out there right away.
Ultimately, the success of refugee resettlement depends on the goodwill of people. But to enhance that likelihood, there is the necessity for appropriate infrastructure. That's going to translate to money for housing, for creating employment, for additional health care in our community which is already stretched on all these fronts.
I can attest personally to the generosity and welcoming of this community to new immigrants. To be kind to strangers is as big a part of our DNA as DIY. Yet it is important to know and to deal effectively within our own limitations. We need to remember the safety instructions of the airlines, put on your own oxygen masks before helping others.
The refugee resettlement is, by its very definition, a matter of safety. That is what New Zealand is committed to provide. Safety implies an understanding of risk and available means to minimise risk, both for the provider of safety and the recipient.
Refugees are people coming here because of danger to their lives in their former home countries. They'll have suffered trauma both physical and emotional. To help these people to become effective and contributing members of our community will not be a simple matter. Our safety and theirs depends on getting the best information and firm assurances from central government as regards the necessary additional infrastructure.
To Minister Lees-Galloway, I offer these immortal words from Jerry Maguire: "Show me the money!" And the facts.
As to Harete Hipango, let's invite her to the party. Instead of throwing mud at cows, let's hear her positive ideas . After all, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.