Launch of the Office of Ethnic Affairs (Auckland)

  • George Hawkins
Ethnic Affairs

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga waka. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to be here to celebrate the launch of the Auckland Office of Ethnic Affairs.

I would like to acknowledge present and past office bearers and members of the Auckland Ethnic Council here tonight; the President of the Auckland Ethnic Council; staff of the Race Relations Office and other invited guests.

It is fitting to have the newly appointed Race Relations Conciliator, Gregory Fortuin with us this evening. Welcome Greg, your expertise in race relations and human rights are a real asset to all New Zealanders.

I know that the Office of Ethnic Affairs works closely with the Race Relations Office on a wide range of issues. I hope that we can continue to build on and strengthen that relationship in the future.

I want to acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues, many of whom have a lot to do with ethnic communities. In particular, I acknowledge the Prime Minister, Helen Clark who is the Labour MP for Mt Albert and Phil Goff, the Labour MP for Mt Roskill. Helen and Phil can't be here tonight, however I bring their warmest wishes for a successful launch tonight.

It is really very exciting to see this government's vision for ethnic communities beginning to take shape.

Helen Clark appointed me as New Zealand's first Minister for Ethnic Affairs. It's great to be an advocate for New Zealand's many ethnic communities at the Cabinet table.

I enjoy this role immensely. In my own electorate of Manurewa - in Manukau City - I represent thousands of ethnic New Zealanders.

The establishment of the Office of Ethnic Affairs reflects this government's commitment to improving outcomes for New Zealand's ethnic communities.

A few weeks ago the Prime Minister and I had the privilege of hosting the launch of the new Office of Ethnic Affairs in Wellington.

The launch was a very special event, which acknowledged the enormous contribution ethnic communities have made to New Zealand society; and signalled the continuation of the constructive partnership between the government and ethnic communities. It is wonderful to see some people here tonight who attended that event.

The Office of Ethnic Affairs provides quality advice to the government, to help improve outcomes for New Zealand's ethnic communities.

According to the last Census, Ethnic New Zealanders make up about 8% of the population.

· In last year's Budget we announced an $11.8 million dollar budget package for retraining overseas medical doctors who were previously frustrated by the previous government's barriers to retraining and registration.

I want to thank Health Minister Annette King for her assistance to break down the barriers for hundreds of overseas medical doctors.

· In education we have provided an additional $6.6 million dollar increase in ESOL funding over the next four years to help teach children whose first language is not English.

I want to thank Education Minister Trevor Mallard for his assistance to help many of our children and young people who face the challenge of learning English as a new language in this country.

The Labour Alliance Government has already made good progress in Ethnic Affairs, for example:
· We have invested over $670,000 ($674,000) to fund pilot support services to help new migrants settle in New Zealand.

· We have invested more than $560,000 into refugee resettlement support services in this country.

· We are aiming to increase the annual number of skilled and business migrants coming to New Zealand to a total of around 27,000 (that new target will take effect from 1 July 2001).

· Last year we agreed to allocate $318,000 a year for the next four years to house refugee status seekers who have not been granted permits.

I want to thank my colleague, Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel, for her assistance in these policy areas.

I also want to restate my support for the growth and potential of ethnic businesses in New Zealand.

Ethnic unemployment has fallen significantly since this Government came to office. But there is more work to be done.

This year, 2001, is the United Nations, International Year of Volunteers. The Government decided to adopt the year as we recognise and value the work that volunteers do.

Voluntary organisations such as the Auckland Ethnic Council, the Auckland Refugee Council and the Federation of Ethnic Councils have played a significant role in ensuring that the many voices of New Zealand's ethnic communities are seen, heard and understood.

Many of you here tonight make an enormous contribution, as volunteers, to your community and to the wider New Zealand community. It is your hard work and tireless dedication that strengthens and builds our communities.

Tonight, I want to thank you for your important work as volunteers and acknowledge the gift of your contribution to communities.

Thank you for coming this evening. It is wonderful to see the Auckland Office of Ethnic Affairs being launched. And it is a pleasure to welcome the new Race Relations Conciliator. I am looking forward to working with you all to strengthen the partnerships we have with Auckland's many ethnic communities.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.