Comments made by a Whanganui man who is organising a picket outside Whanganui District Council in opposition to the city becoming a refugee resettlement location have been labelled "vile and disgusting" by another who plans to counter protest.

Last week Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced Whanganui will become one of five new refugee re-settlement locations around New Zealand.

"There are already not enough houses and jobs for local people in Whanganui," long time protester Phillip "Bear" Rewiti said.

"The council meeting is at noon tomorrow (the meeting is at 1pm) and we'll be outside from 11am making a peaceful protest."


Reweti, who ran for council in 2016, said he believed some refugees would come from "Osama bin Laden countries".

Ross Fallen, another former council candidate, said Rewiti's comments were "vile and disgusting".

"I have contacted Phillip and pointed out that he promotes himself as a 'professional protester' and should be showing some social responsibility," Fallen said.

"I'm a pacifist so I won't be doing anything aggressive but I will be there with my own sign."

Multicultural Council of Rangitikei/Whanganui president Vijeshwar Prasad said it was sad that some people had such negative attitudes towards other cultures.

"Many of these people come to New Zealand with particular talents that are needed here," he said.

"There are doctors working at Whanganui Hospital who came here as refugees and now they are saving lives."

When asked why the protest was being held outside the council offices when the resettlement was a central government decision, Reweti said the council had not opposed the decision.

Ross Fallen says there have been some appalling reactions to refugee settlement on social media. Photo / Stuart Munro
Ross Fallen says there have been some appalling reactions to refugee settlement on social media. Photo / Stuart Munro

Prasad said problems with refugees living in New Zealand only tend to arise if they are left in isolation.

"The multicultural council work to help people understand and respect each others' cultures - we take people on visits to Putiki Marae and introduce them to all the good things in Whanganui."

March is New Zealand Race Relations Month and Prasad said there would be a number of opportunities in Whanganui for people to attend events to learn more about other cultures.

"Often it is simply a matter of sitting down and talking with each other to dispel misunderstandings."

Lees-Galloway told the Chronicle refugees would start to be introduced to Whanganui in March 2020 and would scale up to three to five families every six to eight weeks amounting to around 110 refugees each year.

"We've been settling refugees in New Zealand for generations," he said.

"We have the experience, the resources and the expertise to do our bit and provide a small number of people, displaced by war and disaster, a place to call home without disadvantaging people already living in Whanganui.

"While the primary reason for accepting refugees is humanitarian, research shows there are economic and social benefits for accepting refugees – they contribute to our tax base over time, bring valuable skills and are often budding entrepreneurs."