By Hayley Gastmeier
After nearly 50 years living in South Wairarapa, Ruth Evans can only now call herself a true Kiwi.
The district’s well known organ player was one of five residents sworn in at a citizenship ceremony on Tuesday.
Weihao Wu, whose family owns Martinborough fish and chip shop ‘Joe Kwong On’, was also made a New Zealander, as was Lynne Phillips, and couple Gary Emery and Mary Buttimer.
In her 12 years at the helm, South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples has hosted around 40 citizenship ceremonies.
But Tuesday’s evening service was her last.
Before swearing the candidates in, Mrs Staples told the soon-to-be Kiwis from China, England and Australia, that it was people like them that “helped make New Zealand the diverse place it is”.
“New Zealand is a jolly long way from anywhere. And for people to pick up their bags and travel here, a long way from their homes and relatives, takes a certain amount of courage.”
Originally from across the ditch, Mrs Evans said becoming a New Zealander “was a bucket list thing”.
After falling for a shearer, she lived for almost three decades in Kaiwaiwai, 13 years in Featherston, and has now retired to Greytown.
From China, Mr Wu and his family have lived in New Zealand for 10 years, and the last five of those in Martinborough.
“We were already residents but for me it’s kind of like drifting around, but getting a citizenship you are one and part of the country,” Mr Wu said.
New citizen Lynne Phillips, of Featherston, was born in England.
She grew up in Owhiro Bay in Wellington and then returned to her homeland.
“I came back to New Zealand and got off the plane in 2002 with a cat in one hand and a suitcase in the other.”
Greytown part-time residents Gary Emery and Mary Buttimer said it was “love and redundancy” which brought them to New Zealand from England over five years ago.