Dennis Bartlett led a community group to help convince Immigration New Zealand of Masterton’s suitability as a refugee resettlement area. PHOTO/FILE

Up to five families settled in first year

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Masterton will soon be home to refugees looking for a fresh start.

On Thursday, Masterton was named as one of six new refugee resettlement locations as part of the government’s pledge to increase the quota from 750 to 1000 refugees.

Other resettlement sites named included Whanganui, Levin, Blenheim and Timaru. There is still one location to be named.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said it was something that the community had been pushing for and congratulated the Refugee Resettlement Group for leading the campaign.

“This is something many in the community have been pushing for and it’s a positive milestone to be confirmed as a resettlement location.

“It’s difficult to express how proud I am that people displaced by war and disaster will be able to call Masterton home in the future.”

About 18 months ago, a community group was established to help convince Immigration New Zealand of Masterton’s suitability as a refugee resettlement area.

This group was led by Dennis Bartlett, ex-policeman and owner of Jolly Good Shoe Repairs.

Bartlett said it was “excellent” news.

He credited the ‘Doing Our Bit Campaign’ for helping turn locals around on the idea.

Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty said he was delighted by the announcement.

“I couldn’t think of a better place to start a new life.”

In June last year, McAnulty introduced Bartlett to Minister for Immigration Ian Lees-Galloway at World Refugee Day celebrations at Parliament.

McAnulty praised the council and community, saying Wairarapa had a proud history of refugee resettlement, citing the Polish children who came to Pahiatua in the 1940s.

He said the region’s proximity to other resettlement sites in Wellington and Palmerston North made it well-suited to the task.

Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott had been involved in discussions about bringing refugees to Wairarapa four years ago when the government began looking for a new settlement centre.

“This is an excellent result,” he said.

Scott said it would be a fantastic boon for the Wairarapa economy and that families would be well supported.

“Masterton has the infrastructure and the willing community to support refugee resettlement. It’s the people.”

Patterson said the Masterton District Council will work with all relevant government departments and agencies over the next year to ensure the town was ready to welcome and support refugees.

The government has proposed that refugees will begin to be settled in Masterton from May next year.

Around three to five families are expected to be settled in Masterton in the first year.