Tuesday, 15 July 2008

islanders in big groups

i listened to this piece on morning report today, and couldn't believe what i was hearing. the issue is a valid one: 250 pacific island workers (presumably on temporary visas) have come to the town of seddon, with a population of only 500. of course there will be issues around pastoral care, about the newcomers fitting in with the locals, and there are very likely to be cultural clashes. that's a big number of people to fit into a small town.

the highlight was this comment from the local tavern owner:

There’s so many together in one lot, so you might get one lot down that end of the bar from a different island and another lot all lined up over here. And I think the local people feel intimidated even though they haven’t done anything. Just they’re in big groups.

i find that really difficult. what are these people suppose to do? not sit together? not go out together? i bet one of the best ways to get over that feeling of intimidation is to go and talk to these people, who would no doubt love to have some interaction and to be made to feel welcome. methinks the intimidation would not have been quite so strong had the workers come over from europe, even if they hadn't spoken english well.

then, even better, a couple who had been investigated by the department of labour for providing inadequate housing had this to say:

This sleepout had 5 beds in it. So we’re not in a 3 bedroom house with 1 bathroom trying to cater for 20 people. Very well set up and they were very happy. More than what they have at home.

ouch. while i'm not saying the accommodation was poor, i would hope that the standards provided in this country would be judged on what's acceptable here. in other words, you don't think "well they were sleeping on the ground so now they've got a foam mattress. haven't we done well". rather, you should think "what would i want for myself or for my kids or for my neighbours. is it something i could live in for several months?" and if the human decency argument doesn't move you, then the health argument might. overcrowding and poor housing standards lead to health problems, so it is in everyone's interests that decent housing is provided. as i say, the people above may have been unfairly targetted. but the attitude needs a little bit of work.

which is another issue. this lot won't qualify for free healthcare in nz, and i bet they don't get paid enough to be able to afford to pay the full costs of healthcare. not only that, but they pay their full share of nz tax, which means that they are in effect paying for our healthcare while getting none themselves. not a particularly fair position.

there were lots of other bits that didn't impress me much. but the main point is that we're bringing workers into this country to fill a shortage. it's low quality work that doesn't pay big bucks. at the very least, they deserve to be treated well and made to feel welcome.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"methinks the intimidation would not have been quite so strong had the workers come over from europe, even if they hadn't spoken english well."

Or if they had come over from Asia. It's to do with physical size & a groups reputation for violence. Asians have lower levels of violent crime than Europeans. For some reason the Government decided that Pacific Workers had to be the first port of call despite many Asian workers coming here and doing the work previously (see the North & South article a couple of months back).

Anonymous said...

"this lot won't qualify for free healthcare in nz"

That's true, but they will be eligible for ACC. Also employers are encouraged to arrange health insurance.

stargazer said...

ben, i know it's you. and the quality of your comments continue to be poor. acc only covers accidents, it doesn't cover illness, such ones you might get from poor accommodation.

Ben R said...

"ben, i know it's you. and the quality of your comments continue to be poor. acc only covers accidents, it doesn't cover illness, such ones you might get from poor accommodation."

Sorry, was in a hurry & clicking anonymous is faster.

I am not sure what's poor about pointing out they are eligible for ACC. Don't you think that is relevant?

I wasn't suggesting that ACC does cover illness from poor accomodation. I agree it seems unusual they aren't eligible for free healthcare.