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Adapting ‘Welcoming Communities’ Initiative for Newcomers in Hamilton, Waikato

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Adapting ‘Welcoming Communities’ Initiative for Newcomers in Hamilton, Waikato


Literature Review

Migration is an integral feature of community development. Flow of new migrants into the community affects not only the individuals themselves but also the environment and the larger society. The society that was present in the past is no longer adaptable to the present and the future. Migration offers opportunities for communities to adapt to new challenges if the process of migration is positive. This served as the motivation for the proposed project, to be able to create an analysis of the data collected from migrants in order to inform policy and create a harmonious transition for newcomers of different ethnicities assisting them to adapt to the specificities of the local environment.

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This research is informed by studies of migration but focuses more specifically on the ‘Welcoming Communities’ initiative for newcomers in Hamilton, Waikato. With this problem being highlighted, the research seeks to identify the issues that previous migrants had encountered when they moved to Hamilton, as well as, build on the favourable experiences they had. This analysis can inform the city council’s policy development and inform their ‘Welcoming Communities’ initiative to create a year round program for newcomers, both new and old, to support them in their settlement in Hamilton.

This literature review will first discuss the theoretical framework that will be used and its importance. It will then introduce the reader to the ‘Welcoming Cities’ initiative and how it has been adopted worldwide. With the initiative being in the centre of the proposed research, it is equally important to analyse the broader status of both international migration and migration in New Zealand and how it will benefit from the adaptation of the Welcoming cities initiative. Lastly, the literature review will focus on local government councils, particularly Hamilton City Council in the Waikato and provide evidence to support the effective adoption and adaptation of the initiative.

Social Ecological Model

The Social Ecological Model is a theoretical framework that focuses its attention on the multifaceted and interactive effects of the personal and environmental factors that determine behaviours and social relations. It consists of a hierarchy of interrelated levels from the individual to the global level demonstrating the dynamism and ecological dimensions of social systems (UNICEF C4D, 2009). Each level is dynamically interactive with the other levels illustrating how factors from one level influence other factors from an adjacent level (CDC, 2019). There have been a multitude of different versions of the social ecological model used, with most versions having five levels. The core or innermost level is the individual with successive levels having a wider scope in relation to the subject.  For uniformity throughout the research, the social ecological model introduced by Bronfenbrenner will be used. The different levels in Bronfenbrenner’s Social Ecological Model are the individual, their microsystem relationship where the family, peers, possibly school and church are related, the mesosystem which is concentrated on local community, the exosystem that deals with national level initiatives and the macrosystem level which relates to the global policy environment (McCallen, 2016).

The model has been used extensively in the social sciences from being used in the creation of a framework for prevention of violence (CDC, 2019) to being used as critical success criteria in higher education (McCallen, 2016). This shows the exponential capacity of the Social Ecological Model as a useful theoretical framework. The research done by Townsend and Foster, 2010, utilised the model integrating it into its research design and analysis. For the study, the researchers adapted six levels of influence to be able to fully promote healthy eating within schools and other factors that interact with it. The study similarly utilised the model to achieve a multilevel analysis in an effort to create a more extensive outcome with the different levels being interpreted against their relation to other levels.

In the present study, the social ecological model plays a vital role in the creation of the research design as well as the analysis. The model, having a hierarchal but dynamic interaction in between levels will allow a full assessment of the possibilities built into the ‘Welcoming Cities’ initiative. Proponents of the initiative point to its broad global relevance given the significance of migration in contemporary times. The model can easily be fitted and adapted to both evaluation and problem solving and for this reason is highly useful for applied research. This framework supports inter-level interpretation and analysis of the data and its uses in developing policy to improve the initiative and customise it to the local setting.

Welcoming Cities

The Welcoming Cities initiative was started in 2013 by the Clinton Foundation thru its Welcoming America organisation and was committed to helping the local government achieve a positive migration agenda in the local community level. There were ten cities listed to be part of the pilot group with the vision to help create policies centred towards attracting and retaining contributing immigrants to their communities. The primary strategy that the initiative have lined up for the cities is to support them thru research and help create a network of partners from within the initiative (Clinton Foundation, 2016).

A study done in 2018 by Huang and Liu examined the initiative that is already integrated in the policies of the respective local government unit part of the programme. The researchers have meticulously analysed all factors that was affected once it was institutionalised. Data has shown that a big part of the changes were evident in the economic contribution of the immigration integration. With a number of cities in varying region, size and immigrant profile joining the cause, reasons for local government wanting to be a part of the ‘Welcoming Cities’ is focused on addressing their local needs, from economics, politics, institutional capacities and the network factors of their communities. This needs is what the current research will focus into in efforts to create a platform for Hamilton with their plans to be a part of the cause.

With ‘Welcoming Cities’ transitioning globally, Immigration New Zealand has adapted its own version of the initiative in the hopes of creating local communities with wider migration agenda tailored to their individual needs. It was created in partnership with the Office of Ethnic Communities, the Department of Internal Affairs and the Human Rights Commission. It was launched as ‘Welcoming Communities’ with nine councils over five regions all over New Zealand as the pioneer group. The pioneers are: Tauranga city council, Western Bay of Plenty district council, Whanganui district council, Palmerston North city council, Ashburton district council, Selwyn district council, Gore district council, Invercargill city council and Southland district council. Four out of the nine councils are located in the north island and the remaining five councils are located in the south island. In the event that Hamilton would be approved as the tenth council in the programme, it will even out the number of councils per island at five each. ‘Welcoming Communities’ is focused on the newcomers in each local community and not solely on immigrants. To define who are considered as newcomers in the community, they could either be recent migrants, former refugees and international students. The local government considers their efforts to be successful once newcomers feel welcome by having better social outcomes, greater social cohesion and a stronger economic growth. Being focused on the local city or district councils, Immigration New Zealand supports them via three components, which all nine councils share. The three components are: knowledge sharing, standard, welcoming plans and accreditation, which serves as the benchmark for all councils and lastly, celebrating success. This creates a baseline for all member councils to follow in their efforts to maximise the potential of the programme. Ultimately, when the ‘Welcoming Communities’ initiative was launched, Immigration New Zealand, together with the nine councils created eight elements of standards and outcome areas. These are: inclusive leadership, welcoming communications, equitable access, connected and inclusive communities, economic development, business and employment, civic engagement and participation, welcoming public spaces and culture and identity. These outcome areas serve as the standard for all communities’ part of the initiative and will serve as a measuring stick for those who want to be included in the programme (Immigration New Zealand. 2019).

In relation to the theoretical framework that will be used in the research, ‘Welcoming Cities’ initiative squarely seats on the exosystem and macrosystem level of the social ecological model. The exosystem level is connected with Immigration New Zealand’s drive to deliver a better framework for local government to assist newcomers. The macrosystem level deals with the global initiative that was started by the Clinton Foundation, which created Welcoming America and in turn was adapted internationally into the Welcoming Cities initiative, which is now present in Australia, Canada, Europe, the United Stated and New Zealand.

International Migration

In the centre of all the programmes that was created, from the Clinton Foundation in the United States all the way to Welcoming Communities of Immigration New Zealand is migration. International migration has been present since our forefathers were discovering new territories to settle into and improve. This is inherently present in the history of most countries including New Zealand.

As defined by Immigration New Zealand, in their ‘Welcoming Communities’ initiative, newcomers or migrants are categorised into three specific social entities. One of which are international students. One important adjustment that all migrants, not only international students have to consider is the acculturation that one needs to make to the new environment. By definition, acculturation means “those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact with subsequent changes in the original cultural patterns of either or both groups” (Redfield, Linton & Herskovits, 1937).  A study that was done in the United States highlighted the factors for career development of international students and how they need to adjust to the new environment to be active members of the society. The study has focused on the different dimensions of acculturation in relation to career development and found that different international students are attracted to different factors. The factors listed are: dominant society immersion, ethnic identity, ethnic society immersion, individualism and collectivism (Marks, Ciftci & Lee, 2018). In the end, the research was able to increase cultural awareness and knowledge about the international students and how they are adjusting to the environment. This study has been supported by a recent study done in the New Zealand context in which the researcher, this time, focused on an immigrant youth instead of an international student. The study showed the different factors that the respondent perceived to be categorised as successful in her migration journey (Stuart & Ward, 2011). Both research paved the way for further studies to be done in a wider scale. As far as the present research is concerned, acculturation and the factors related to it are valuable pieces of information that is beneficial in filtering information towards creating the ideal scenario for the newcomers.

For their part in the social ecological model of Bronfenbrenner, international migration seats in macrosystem level of interaction as continuous migration changes the landscape of the global economy and affects a network of industries around it. It creates a ripple effect where one policy that is made in a specific part of the globe will have an effect in the other side whether it is intentional or unintentional.

Migration in New Zealand

New Zealand is no stranger to migration. It has a rich history from the time that the original settlers, the Maori people, occupied majority of the country until the Europeans came. From the Maori settlers to the Dutch then the British, New Zealand has undergone a dynamic change in its environment and civilisation (Immigration New Zealand, 2019). In the modern world, New Zealand has an active and diverse migration policy instituted and mandated by Immigration New Zealand. With all the advantages and disadvantages that a migrant, wanting to move in a different country is expected to experience, numerous researches has been conducted in the New Zealand context in hopes of producing data to support the different factors that one are expected to encounter during the move. This part of the literature review will present numerous researches focused on showing factors that will benefit the current research.

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In Statistics New Zealand’s recent undertaking about internal migration, the organisation collected quantifiable data all over the country in the effort to give light to the reasons and patterns of its local communities. The study has shown valuable information and insights related to the current research. Parts of the data collected are centred on migrants. Qualitative information regarding the reasons for moving to New Zealand was collected. Post analysis, a set of classifications was established and grouped according to the responses given and was listed into: social, education, employment, economic, housing, environment and political/cultural reasons. Another part of the data collected showed how migrants rated their move to New Zealand. The move was measured according to their ratings of the following factors: social life, employment opportunity, standard of living, housing and the outdoor environment (Statistics New Zealand, 2007). These data will serve as a way for the current research to isolate factors in migration that is specific to New Zealand.

Presently in New Zealand, majority of the attraction of migration, both from the local and international community is towards the urban areas. Auckland, specifically, drew a significant percentage of migrants wanting to settle in the city primarily due to the large immigrant communities already established and accounts for 33% of the New Zealand population (Gerard, 2017). This gave newcomers the needed support, including social connections integral in acculturation (Redfield, Linton & Herskovits, 1937) as well as the “sense of belonging” in the new environment. Another valid reason is that immigrants are expected to go where they are likely to find jobs and a community that will support them (Paul, 2016). This is not the case for rural communities in New Zealand. Southland is one of the five regions that is part of the pilot ‘Welcoming communities’ initiative (Immigration New Zealand. 2019). Being a majority rural region, they have followed the framework used by Dayton, Ohio in their ‘Welcoming Dayton’ programme wherein they highlighted the interaction between migrants and existing residents. To attract more newcomers in the district, Southland has created programmes centred about business and economic development and is focused as well on helping migrants start new businesses. To make this initiative sustainable, the local government and the justice system has partnered with the police, non-government organisations and religious institutions (Brown, 2017). Gerard has echoed Southland’s initiative in 2017 when he states that different regions are now starting to develop their own migration policies stating that people will not go into a community where there are no services. Hence, the difference in the approach of the individual councils in their respective programmes all around the country. The literatures discussed showed the different aspects of migration and how it benefits the newcomers and the different regions. In being aggressive, thru their ‘Welcoming Communities’ initiative, district and city councils will be able to attract more newcomers to help in their economic growth. On the other end, cities like Auckland that are highly populated due to constant migration will benefit from having the city decompress with migrants opting to settle elsewhere in the country.

All newcomers in New Zealand are expected to have a degree of adjustment and acculturation. Depending on the support system of the individual, the level of adaptation can differ greatly with an abundance of factors attached to it. From acculturation to barriers in language, studies have been done to help support the changes that newcomers are expected to encounter. The study done by Stuart and Ward in 2011 highlight the acculturation, integration and adaptation of youth Muslim immigrants in New Zealand and was based on the respondents’ experiences. The research has explored three main areas to help streamline the results of the study. The areas are: the meaning, definition and achievement of success, the process of negotiating multiple social identities and the graphic representation of identity. Based on the criteria given and the data analysed, the researchers perceived that young Muslims aspire to achieve success in the following: personal, social, material and religious domains as well as a good balance in family, friends, the Muslim community and a wider society. These are evidence that supports the importance of acculturation in migration, more so in New Zealand. Having a good support system on ones journey in a new environment is critical to its success.

Another point of view on immigration in New Zealand was shown thru a study about a former Syrian refugee and the two sides of having to adjust with life in New Zealand, specifically everyday literacy practices (Kaur, 2016). The research showed the changing demands and the particular cultural and contextual aspects of the respondents’ literacy level. This in turn resulted into two complex issues for the former refugee during the periods of their resettlement. The first being the change in literacy practices, as a result of forced migration, brings much stress and the second one is recognising the strengths that the participant in the study utilised and her resourcefulness in navigating new and complex literacies in the new environment. This study was echoed in the research conducted about older Filipino migrants in New Zealand (Montayre, Neville & Holroyd, 2017). The study focused on three themes on how the respondents perceived their move to a new environment. The three themes are: challenges that the migrants experienced during their migration, challenges relating to the New Zealand healthcare system and the challenge of establishing a Filipino identity in New Zealand and adjusting to the difficulties of relocation. The studies both highlight the difficulties that migrants encounter in their move to New Zealand. These are valid issues and have been consistent in almost all newcomers coming to New Zealand. The researches has further given the pathway towards reducing the necessary adjustment that a migrant would be expected to encounter thru its results and recommendations. The present research will seek to use said recommendations to inform the respondents of the basis of the factors included in the study for newcomers’ perception of moving to New Zealand.

On the part of the social ecological model ladder that the research will use as a theoretical framework, migration in New Zealand deals prominently with the exosystem level of interrelationship within the model as all policies and changes made and observed in this level will have an effect either in the global scale or in a lower community level. This is important in determining the baseline of factors that will benefit the current study prior to isolating the necessary conditions that is specific to Hamilton City Council.

Hamilton City Council

The mesosystem level of the social ecological model is connected with the Hamilton City Council, as it is the community that the research is focused into. With the mesosystem in the model, the relationship will be centred towards the interaction of an individual’s personal relationship with their family and other social entities with the entire community. It deals with how the effects of both connections affect each other. This level in the social ecological model is critical towards achieving the desired results in the research that is posted.

Hamilton as a city has a very rich history. The name itself was taken after Captain John Charles Fane Hamilton who was killed at the battle of Gate Pa in Tauranga in 1864. Kirikiriroa, which means “long stretch of gravel” is the Maori name of the city. It is New Zealand’s largest inland city and has an estimate population of about 160,000 as of 2016. The city has a diverse population in that half of the residents are under 30 years old with about 75% being New Zealand Europeans and 19% Maori. It is home to about 80 ethnic groups with varying beliefs and values. All these diversity are blending within the city, which makes the city council’s initiative to be a part of the ‘Welcoming Communities’ programme, something to look forward to (Hamilton City Council, 2013).

One initiative of the city council is to ensure that residents in feel safe living in the city. With this in mind, the city has created the CitySafe programme, which is focused on improving the safety within the city and reducing the crime. These are made possible with partnership between the city council, the police and other agencies and businesses. As part of the programme, the council has installed crime prevention cameras strategically located all around the city. Patrol officers move around the city and acts as an extra set of eyes and ears for the council. They have also supported the Nightrider bus, which is a late night bus service that caters for residents needing to go home late night. The council has also made efforts to reduce vehicle crime in the city by creating an awareness drive to help residents to be vigilant. A liquor ban and an anti-social behaviour advocacy have also been implemented in the effort to reduce unnecessary community problems (Hamilton City Council, 2013).

Safety is just one of the initiative that the city council is strongly implementing all throughout the city. This is a reflection of the commitment of the council to make the city a better and safer place for its residents and newcomers alike. With the council committed on making Hamilton a better and safer place for its residents, coupled with the different factors that literature has shown from international to New Zealand migration, the current research will have enough supporting data to move forward.



In conclusion, as the present research is trying to locate new data from newcomers to support the efforts of Hamilton City Council to be part of the ‘Welcoming Communities’ initiative of Immigration New Zealand, the literature review focused on supporting said research problem.

With the global implications of the research, the social ecological model is utilised as the theoretical framework, which will support all levels. It is beneficial in such that the gradual isolation of the migration policies from the international community until the Hamilton City Council is patterned to it as well. The literature has also discussed the ‘Welcoming Cities’ initiative and gave support of how it has been effective from its roots in the United States until it was adapted globally all the way to New Zealand. International migration and migration specific to New Zealand discussed the different challenges that migrants or newcomers encounter in their decision to move to a new environment. The literature was able to show these different challenges and are expected to be the basis for the current research to determine the ideal factors that a newcomer would consider to be desirable for their move. Lastly, the literature discussed Hamilton City Council and their initiatives towards making the city a desirable place for newcomers and current residents. Similar to the literature that was discussed for international and New Zealand migration, the current research will seek to utilise the positive aspects in what was discussed in the hopes to be able to transition it toward the needed factors towards completion of this research.






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