First impressions have long been important to New Zealanders. A long-running gag has a Kiwi asking tourists, still on the tarmac at Auckland International Airport, "so... what do you think of the country?"
This week, we reported on concerns raised with Immigration NZ and the Government after some newly-arrived refugees in Auckland were apparently placed into cold homes without heating or basic items and abandoned without support.
This is not the welcome New Zealanders would expect for our newest people. These are people who have escaped hardship in countries such as Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iran, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Sudan, Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar.
We are told one Afghan family was placed in a cold, damp home during winter, which did not meet Healthy Homes standards, running up $450 power bills they were unable to pay.
The situation has been linked to a change of support providers. Kāhui Tū Kaha took over responsibility for settling refugees into the community in July after New Zealand Red Cross lost a tender for the contract.
Despite being new to providing refugee support, Kahui Tū Kaha is no novice. The Ngāti Whātua agency has provided social housing and mental health services since it was set up in 1973 under the name of Baptist Health to support people leaving psychiatric hospitals.
Immigration NZ national manager Andrew Lockhart is right when he says the providers have "a strong track record" with social services and vulnerable communities.
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has sought answers from Immigration NZ and the Government over the treatment of these refugees after volunteers and advocates laid complaints.
Among the questions to consider are whether Immigration NZ has supported Kāhui Tū Kaha enough in taking over this work.
Similar problems had also been reported in Christchurch, where a social services provider, Purapura Whetu, won the tender. This may suggest the support agencies share a common challenge, is this Immigration NZ? Has the government agency sent too many refugees to the providers without ample warning in order to keep up with our agreed quota?
Providers are given a week's notice to furnish a property to receive a refugee family. Is this enough time for the new contractors?
Or, in successfully bidding to take over the role, have Kāhui Tū Kaha and Purapura Whetu underestimated the resources necessary? Foon points out said the new contractors do not appear to have the same capacity or volunteer network as Red Cross to support quota refugees.
The new Waikato provider, Hamilton Multicultural Services Trust, maintained a close relationship with Red Cross and was able to recruit many of its volunteers.
True, New Zealand has a housing problem, particularly at the affordable end where refugees would typically be taken. But refugees need to be settled in a country that respects and accepts them as tangata tiriti. Anything that undermines this risks nurturing further anguish and, ultimately, resentment.
New Zealand is committed to receiving 1500 refugees a year under the Refugee Quota Programme until 2025. Their welfare must be assured.
Foon's questions need comprehensive answers, and practical solutions, as soon as possible.