When people ask me what my favourite part of being Mayor is, the answer is easy; citizenship ceremonies are what I like doing best.
For, whichever way you look at it, it is a real privilege and honour to preside over a ceremony which sees so many people formally recognised as citizens of our country.
Citizenship can be viewed in many ways.
Importantly, it is something which brings with it a greater feeling of belonging, of being accepted as “one of us”.
Not for a moment, though, does it mean that those receiving their certificates are in any way, shape or form denigrating their homelands.
Rather, what they are doing is adding a second string to their bow in also becoming a citizen of Aotearoa, and we welcome them all with open arms.
When they receive their signed certificates that little bit of Kiwi, which I am sure all of them already had to some degree, blossoms into something bigger, and I guess more meaningful.
One of the great strengths of New Zealand is that we are a country of diversity.
I like to think of the Masterton district as being a leader in that respect.
We absolutely understand the huge benefits of having a wide range of cultures represented within our bounds and we celebrate the different values and skills which people attaining their citizenship bring to us.
We were one of the first regions in the country to embrace the refugee settlement process through the Welcoming Communities concept and it has been a huge success here, with many families now safely living the dream in this wonderful part of the country.
To me these citizenship ceremonies are just as important for us Kiwis as they are to the recipients of the certificates which formalise the procedure.
For it gives us the opportunity to learn more about them every bit as much as it provides the chance for them to learn more about us.
And that whole learning procedure can happen in so many ways, for example at school or in the workplace or on the sports fields.
As Mayor of Masterton district, I always take the opportunity to congratulate our new citizens on choosing this special part of paradise to be the place where they take that step.
It’s an easy claim to make, isn’t it?
After all, we offer the very best of rural, provincial living with our fast-growing population illustrating how we have become a happy place for people of all ages, of all walks of life.
Our parks and reserves are clearly among the very best in the country and provide splendid recreational opportunities for our youth. We are justifiably proud of our schools, many of which are also rated amongst the best in the country, and the ever-growing number of housing developments aimed at people of retirement age show that we are also seen as an attractive option for those in that category.
Add to that our wonderful weather – well, usually wonderful – and our reputation as one of the friendliest towns in the country, and what more could you want?
Finally, as this is my last offering here for 2023 I want to take this opportunity to wish all readers a happy, safe, peaceful and productive Christmas and New Year.