The upgraded accreditation reflects how Council has established the programme in the community and made progress in implementing our local Welcoming Plan.
The External Accreditation Assessment Panel commented on the city’s commitment to partnering with organisations and sectors to identify and address barriers for newcomers accessing services and participating in the community.
“The city welcome sessions, Welcoming Week and welcoming communications such as the videos, welcome pack and communication plans demonstrates the range of opportunities for newcomers to feel welcomed to the region,” says Lead Assessor Cathy McGachie.
Applications are assessed on evidence, ratings and comments provided by Council to demonstrate how we’re meeting sub-outcomes across eight areas including: inclusive leadership, welcoming communications, equitable access, connected and inclusive communities, economic development, business and employment, welcoming public spaces, and culture and identity.
Council’s Community Development Manager Jo Ransom says the accreditation acknowledges, not only our progress since starting the programme in 2017, but also the many years of effort from our community prior to this.
“We have been fortunate to work from a base of established programmes, knowledgeable organisations and long running events, and Welcoming Communities has provided a framework to strengthen and consolidate this existing work,” says Ms Ransom.
“We are proud of where we have come to in our welcoming journey, and we look forward to seeing what further progress we can make for our community in the coming years.”
Council has been working with a Welcoming Communities advisory group, which includes representatives from:
- Central Economic Development Agency
- Citizens Advice Bureau
- Department of Internal Affairs
- English Language Partners
- Manawatū Chamber of Commerce
- Manawatū Multicultural Council
- Red Cross
- Immigration New Zealand (MBIE)
- Network of Skilled Migrants Manawatū
- New Zealand Police
- Manawatū Refugee Resettlement Forum.
Lead spokesperson for Council’s People and Community portfolio, Councillor Lorna Johnson says the accreditation is symbolic of Council’s continued commitment to Palmerston North as a welcoming community.
“This accreditation emphasises that we’re well on our way to achieving the ‘connected and safe community’ goal that we set for ourselves as a city,” says Councillor Johnson.
The Council applied for the upgraded accreditation in February after having received its initial Welcoming Communities accreditation from Immigration New Zealand in December 2019.
There are four levels of accreditation in the Welcoming Communities programme: Committed, Established, Advanced and Excelling.
What is Welcoming Communities?
Welcoming Communities – Te Waharoa ki ngā Hapori is a settlement programme that supports local government (councils) and their communities to create welcoming and inclusive environments for newcomers – recent migrants, former refugees and international students. It involves local residents in developing, delivering and participating in welcoming activities. This approach creates communities where everyone can belong, participate, contribute and thrive. It helps increase social engagement, build social connections and grow social inclusion. This generates economic, social, civic and cultural benefits for the community.
What's been happening?
The programme was successfully trialled as a small-scale pilot from July 2017 to June 2019. Early outcomes from an interim Immigration NZ evaluation report show that:
- Stronger links are forming within the communities participating in the programme.
- Councils are taking a more visible leadership role in promoting diversity and inclusion.
- There has been an explicit shift to locals taking a ‘welcoming’ role.
- There is a positive change in community awareness of diversity and inclusion.
In October 2019 the Government announced the Welcoming Communities programme would be expanded. It allocated $6.665 million dollars over four years to support this work. The aim is to extend the initiative to 30 more sites around the country through to 2022-23.