Immigration has been topical in New Zealand recently and blamed for housing shortages - especially in Auckland.

New Zealand during the middle part of the last century had a similar problem with a housing and trade labour shortage, with many potential immigrants turned away because there was no accommodation here.

When Max and Maria Klinkhamer, together with their two sons Edward and Lou, wanted to immigrate to New Zealand from the Netherlands in 1952, they had a novel solution to this problem - they would bring a house with them.

After an unfavourable response from writing three times to the minister of immigration in 1952, Max Klinkhamer rang the minister (taking some time to get through, as it did in those days) and asked him "Why aren't we allowed to come?"


The minister's reply was there was nothing wrong with their application but a housing shortage meant there would be no place for them to live.

Max knew of a firm in Holland that was exporting pre-fabricated steel-framed kitset houses to Brazil.

He asked the minister: "What if we bring a house with us?"

The minister, surprised, was silent momentarily until he asked about Max's command of English.

Max said he spoke English, "and Dutch, German and French, so what language would you like me to talk to you in?"

"You will bring a house with you?" asked the minister.

"Yes," said Max.

The minister said if Max put this in writing he would grant the Klinkhamer family an entry permit.

Max did and the family sailed to New Zealand on the Sibajak, a journey that would take six weeks.

When the Sibajak reached Wellington Harbour in June 1952 there was a terrible storm.

Three attempts were made to enter the harbour because the sea was so rough.

Max had been trying to work out whether to settle in Nelson or Hastings and was examining the climates of both regions.

However, he refused to get on a ship again after the Wellington experience, so the family boarded a Newmans bus for Hastings.

Max spent £250 (2017: $14,200) on a section at 814 Lumsden Rd, where the kitset house was delivered in boxes.

It was only supposed to take six days to assemble but the builders took six weeks, even though the instructions were in English.

As the Klinkhamers were allowed to take only £1000 with them when they left Holland, this took care of the remaining £750 ($42,600) they had left.

Lou Klinkhamer, then 13, would cycle past the house on the way home from school to Grove Rd, where the family had temporary accommodation.

He would report on the builders' progress to his parents.

One day he saw a builder about to cut the kitchen bench. Dutch ovens were of a different size, so the bench had to be altered for a New Zealand oven.

Lou said it wouldn't be wise to use a circular saw to cut the teak bench. The builder dismissed this, but soon found the wood was so hard it burned out his saw.

The house still stands and has the original galvanised gutters.

Many other Dutch immigrants would bring houses with them, including Lam and Mia Gitmans, who followed the Klinkhamers to New Zealand and bought the same kitset for their section in Ngaio St.

When New Zealand's population growth began to slow in the 1920s and labour shortages occurred, the preference was for British Anglo-Saxton Protestants to boost the numbers.

By 1938, this source was not adequate, so the Netherlands was deemed a good alternative.

In 1939, five Dutch carpenters were granted citizenship and they were described as "a fine type, of athletic build and well educated".

Their successful integration would pave the way for larger scale post-World War II immigration of the Dutch to New Zealand.

In 1950 the New Zealand Government approached The Hague (Dutch seat of government) for 2000 skilled migrants.

Many came with few possessions and limited cash, and only about a quarter received assisted passage from the New Zealand Government.

Most arrived by sea in dormitory-style accommodation ships such as the Sibajak, in which the Klinkhamers had arrived.

The Dutch brought a taste of Europe to New Zealand, especially in regard to cafes and coffee.

Many Dutch arrivals developed successful businesses.

By 1968, 28,366 Dutch had settled in New Zealand since World War II - the single biggest group of non-British immigrants.

* Michael Fowler ( is a vhartered accountant, speaker and writer of history