It wasn't clear how much say Gary Walker had when his parents, Neil and Rowena Walker, decided to leave South Africa for New Zealand in 2008, but whatever he thought then, he was glad that they did so.

The family, he said when he, his parents and brother Daniel took the oath of allegiance to become New Zealand citizens in Kaitaia last week, had arrived with $4000 and two suitcases.

"It was one of the scariest things our parents could have done," he said, "but they did it to give me and my brother opportunities in New Zealand."

Mr Walker Snr said the family had initially settled in Gore, where he had milked cows, and survived his "baptism by ice," adding that emigrating to New Zealand was the best decision he had ever made.

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A total of 23 people from around the world took the oath or affirmation of allegiance on Thursday, Lynette Edwards, who arrived in 2002, saying she was grateful, honoured and humbled to be a citizen.

"I am blessed to be in such a beautiful country," she said, adding that she was grateful to her community, colleagues around the country and the people of New Zealand.

Michael Norman, who took the affirmation with his wife Janet, said he had heard many stories about Australia and New Zealand from his father, a master baker aboard a Cunard line ship before the war. They had had the chance to travel to New Zealand in 1996, to indulge their shared passion for competitive floral art at a competition in Wellington.

They then moved to Australia, but agreed that there was only one place, the best country in the world, where they could retire.

Keith Russell and Helen Winter had come to the same view after a week spent touring the South Island. Mr Russell said he had begun life in Ohio, followed by Africa and 40 years in Australia, but had never felt at home.

"I never found it in Australia. It's here," he said.

And, three years ago, after 27 years together, they had decided to get married.

Phillip Zisakis said he and his wife were sailing around the world when his wife fell ill off the Galapagos Islands in 2006. She had never been ill before, but the doctor told him that she could expect to continue feeling seasick for the next nine months, "even though I had told her not to get pregnant."

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They had arrived in New Zealand intending to settle in Australia, but had decided that New Zealand was the best place to raise their daughter.

Those who became New Zealand citizens on Thursday were:

Foliga Alofa-Metzger (Samoa, now living at Whatuwhiwhi).

Yusuf Kemal and Nesrin Ayata(Turkey, Kerikeri).

Heather Base (Britain, Ōpua).

Cristina Calo (Philippines, Waipapa).

Prashna and Praneel Chand (Fiji, Ahipara).

Lynette Edwards (Zimbabwe, Kerikeri).

Alida Hoksbergen van Daal (Holland, Russell).

Benoit Leduc (Canada, Kerikeri).

Michael and Janet Norman (Britain, Kerikeri).

Alpeshkumar and Hethal Patel (India, Kerikeri).

Keith Russell and Helen Winter (Australia/Britain, Oruru).

Lynne Shaw (Britain, Paihia).

Mark Smolders (Holland, Kerikeri).

Neil, Rowena, Gary and Daniel Walker (South Africa, Kaikohe).

Phillip Zisakis (United States, Kerikeri).