I was so concerned by an article in the Horowhenua Chronicle today I immediately wrote a Letter to the Editor.
We have a group of refugees coming to Levin soon, but one 'concerned citizen' is worried that we don't have enough for ourselves already so perhaps the refugees would be better off elsewhere, for their own good, of course. I've added a screenshot of the article, but will include the text below too. The article was titled
Can Levin handle refugees?
Here's my response to the article in the Horowhenua Chronicle, Page 6, Wednesday 04 March 2020:
A natural response to change is to worry about the risks it brings to our lives: will we have what we need to survive?
Survival is a central concern for all living things.
But rather than askingCan Levin handle refugees?we can use a simple little 3-letter word to empower ourselves and transform our thinking. We can ask insteadHow can Levin handle refugees?
Rather than explore all the possible threats to ourselves and perhaps forget our human compassion for others, we can focus on what's needed to help refugees.
We are stronger together and diversity is an essential part of ensuring that life continues and prospers.
Cansimply focuses on what we believe are our weaknesses whileHow canbrings solutions.
How can we help the refugees arriving on our doorstep?
The article, Horowhenua Chronicle 4 Mar 2020 By Paul Williams:
Can Levin handle refugees?
Horowhenua will welcome 90 Colombian refugees wanting a new life and a new home in a few months’ time. But a Levin woman wonders if the community really wants them.
Michelle Weastell was so concerned with the reaction on social media to the announcement of the refugee arrival that she has planned a public gathering to see if those comments were idle chatroom rabble or real concern.
“Facebook doesn’t change anything,” she said.
Weastell is wanting anyone with concerns about the refugee intake to gather at the Village Green in Levin Thursday night at 6pm and put their names to a petition.
She had no problem with refugees coming, but wonders if they will be set up to fail in a community that is bursting at the seams.
“It’s nothing about their circumstances because they are horrific, but can we support them properly?” she asked.
“Are we setting them up to fail? What do we actually have to offer them, without taking away from our own community?”
“It’s important to get across that it’s nothing against anybody, it’s just timing and what’s best for them and the community.”
Weastell said she had heard that different areas of New Zealand like Hawke’s Bay were short of seasonal workers and that maybe the refugees would be better off there.
With recent statistics showing more people living in poverty, soaring house prices, and competition for jobs, Weastell helps a lot of young families out that were struggling to find jobs.
“I see a lot of hardship.”
She had heard of a family that lost their home in a fire in Levin recently that went to a local motel seeking lodgings, she said.
But they were turned away as there was no room, and she believed all the motel vacancies were taken by people and families temporarily put there by the Ministry of Social Development.
Weastell said she was born in New Zealand and her parents were both born in New Zealand, but her grandparents came from the United Kingdom.
Her concerns echo those of former Mayor Michael Feyen, who has long questioned Horowhenua as a suitable region for refugees.
Feyen, a first-generation New Zealander born of Dutch immigrants, is concerned there isn’t enough suitable housing or jobs for them to prosper and is afraid they are doomed to failure.
Update: the letter was published on Friday 06 March 2020.