New Masterton citizens, Kareshma Sundar, 15, and Sakty Vel Sundar, 5, with their parents Raj Ramakrishnan and Sue Suppayah. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
It was the prospect of dairy farming that brought a family from Malaysia to New Zealand – and they’ve never looked back.
Raj Ramakrishnan and Sue Suppayah, who own the Solway Super Store in Masterton, on Thursday became proud Kiwis, along with their 15-year-old daughter, Kareshma Sundar, and five-year-old son, Sakty Vel Sundar, who was too young to take an oath.
The family-of-four was among eight other people who were sworn in as citizens at a ceremony led by the Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson at Te Ore Ore Marae.
Mr Ramakrishnan was a dairy farmer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.
“When I was farming in Malaysia, that was on my grandfather’s property. That was taken by the government for a new motorway.
“My mum told me I had good experience in dairy farming so why not get a job in New Zealand.”
The couple made the move to Te Puke, near Tauranga, 12 years ago.
Mr Ramakrishnan farmed there for five years, and then for two years in Tokoroa, Waikato.
In 2013, the family moved to Wairarapa.
Mr Ramakrishnan was offered a job at Lake Ferry, which he said was a “beautiful” place to live and work.
“Farming here is a much better life.”
The family then moved north to Masterton and have owned the Solway dairy for about 18 months.
The biggest difference between their homeland and adopted country was the climate.
“It was winter when we first arrived – that was a shock.”
The coldest Malaysia got was about 28-30 degrees Celsius, with the average day temperature hovering around 35C.
Sometimes temperatures reached 42C.
Kareshma, a student at Kuranui College, remembered the stark contrast between classrooms.
She said it was typical to have 45 pupils in a class in Kuala Lumpur.
“There were rows and rows of desks and a blackboard at the front of the classroom – not much else.”
And it wasn’t just the colourful decor of Kiwi classrooms that surprised and delighted her.
“The first class I was in had rabbits and birds.”
Mr Ramakrishnan said he loved it here.
“We’re very happy with lots of good people around us in a nice community.
“Everybody, including our neighbours, are very supportive.”
Ms Suppayah said they received a warm welcome when they arrived in the country over a decade ago.
“We’ve got no family over here and the people of New Zealand have been our family since we got here.
“That’s what’s really nice about New Zealand – we never felt like we were in a foreign country, we were made to feel like we belong.”
All new citizens received a kowhai tree to plant to remember the special occasion.
Other new Masterton citizens hailed from Britain, China, Thailand, and Taiwan.