Home. It's a little word, with many more meanings than letters.

An abode, a sanctuary, a place to hail from, where the heart resides, where loved ones live, where we belong, or - to borrow from the Māori turangawaewae - a place to stand.

Wherever our homes may be, and however we may define them, we can likely all understand the deep longing for that special place where we feel most at ease.

Where people just "get" us, and we feel safe, loved and welcome.


The places we call home may be far-flung, but the concept of belonging is universal.

As Kiwis, hailing from the little country that could, we're often fiercely proud of our homeland.

As difficult as we may find conversations about our nationhood, we're quick to deflect criticism levelled at our slice of paradise and even quicker to jump down the throats of anyone who mistakenly smears us with the charge of being Australian.

Likewise, should the Australians attempt to claim one of our success stories for their own - watch out. Our national icon may be a flightless bird, but it has a very long and rather pointy beak.

While many of us - rightly, in my opinion - believe that New Zealand is the best country on the planet, those of us who were born here (myself included) often forget that it was simply by the virtue of luck that we came to be New Zealanders.

When you think about it, our birthright is really our birth privilege, as we were the lucky few who, through factors completely outside our control, were fortunate enough to be born in the right place at the right time.

Our existences would've been markedly different, had we been born in Syria or Afghanistan or Somalia, where our love for our homeland may have been thwarted by a desperate need for safety and stability.

Here in peaceful Aotearoa it is hard to imagine, for example, Auckland being taken over by a terrorist regime and bombed almost to the ground by "liberating" forces.

"The battle for Auckland" is a phrase we can afford to throw around figuratively to describe contests between politicians and arguments with the NIMBYs.

"The battle for Mosul" - a city that used to be home to more than 2 million people - is, in contrast, deadly literal.

Yet amid the flurry of images of millions of nameless refugees pouring out of their homelands by whatever methods of transport remain accessible, however precarious, Western hearts have hardened.

While citizens of developed and stable countries can generally intellectually understand that being born in Syria is no one's fault, still the question is posed why WE should let THEM into OUR home.

Here in New Zealand, no one could argue that our home doesn't have room to spare.

While some of our urban centres are creaking and cracking there are now 11 regional authorities in New Zealand with declining populations.

A recently released report by the Maxim Institute has suggested that within 30 years that number will rise to 44.

So what prevents us from taking in more refugees?

It seems clear that despite a burst of media attention in 2015 highlighting the fact that New Zealand hadn't increased its refugee quota in nearly 30 years, there is little political will to change the quota beyond the small increase announced late that year of taking 250 more refugees from 2018 onwards and a one-off emergency intake of 600.

Given National's famed use of extensive polling, it can likely be assumed that there is not enough public support for further increasing our quota to force the Government to act.


Are we simply concerned about our groaning infrastructure?

Or have we been spending too much time listening to Donald Trump and Nigel Farage?

Some call their rhetoric xenophobia, which implies a fear of the foreign, but I wonder whether in their pride for their homelands they may have fallen pray to a kind of dehumanising nationalistic superiority complex.

Sovereign nations should absolutely have the right to control their borders, but as human beings surely we need to ask ourselves whether denying those in desperate need safe harbour is the best way to showcase our values.

Ironically, while the plight of Middle Eastern refugees has been in the spotlight over the last few years, it is immigration that is destined to become the major election issue here at home this September.

It should be pointed out that the two are not the same.

There is a clear difference between a refugee seeking stability and survival in a new country after fleeing hell on Earth and a migrant seeking new opportunities in New Zealand.

The greatest opportunity a refugee seeks is the right to live a life free from terror.

I firmly believe that immigration and diversity are positive for New Zealand, but I would support a rethinking of our immigration system, not in the name of nationalism or xenophobia, but out of concern for our out of control urban centres, and mounting pressure on core social services like health and education.

We either need strong leadership to strengthen our essential services and infrastructure, or we need to somehow relieve the pressure until we can figure out a sustainable way forward.

Concerns about immigration should not, however, prevent us from showing compassion to refugees.

Doubling our current quota would only add an extra 1000 people to our population per year - a paltry number when you consider that more than 70,000 people migrated to New Zealand between January 2016 and January 2017.

What really drove it home for me was this proud declaration I found on the official website of our refugee programme: "Since the Second World War, New Zealand has resettled over 33,000 refugees."

I'm no mathematical genius, but it appears that over the course of 71 years, we've taken in less than half the number of refugees than those we've welcomed to our shores as migrants in the past 12 months.

It doesn't add up.