Increasing diversity in Central Otago is a positive step forward, community leaders say.
It is also leading to greater demand for English language classes.
An English language programme for speakers of other languages had been a great success for the Central Otago Rural Education Activities Programme (Coreap), tutor Kelly Radka said.
Since Coreap began offering the course in Alexandra in 2015, the number of people interested had increased significantly, she said.
“In the beginning, it was one or two people and now it’s increased – we are seeing in the region of 25 to 30 a year.”
Some were learning English to pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test in a bid for residency, but there were a variety of other goals as well, Mrs Radka said.
“We have people coming in strictly to improve their English proficiency; some for general everyday life, some for business.”
Other reasons included passing exams, such as university entrance, and learning to drive, Mrs Radka said.
“People from the different countries are bringing some wonderful skill sets and have a really dynamic way of looking at things.”
They had a fresh perspective and were very enthusiastic about being in Alexandra, “and that brings a lot of energy to the town”, Mrs Radka said.
“This area of the country seems to be becoming more and more desirable for people to come and live and work, and I think that’s a nice change from a lot of people going to Auckland or Wellington and so on.
“We are seeing a lot more people from different countries coming, wanting to live here, wanting to work here,” she said.
Alexandra resident Alyonka Braun, who hails from the Republic of Kazakhstan, said she took the course last year to help with her work.
“I recently applied for a small business course in Cromwell, so without going to those classes and improving my English I wouldn’t be able to do that.
“Thanks to Coreap it was free for residents, so it was a really great opportunity because you don’t have to pay money, and you can go during the day, so it was really good,” Mrs Braun said.
“I think it’s a really significant improvement in my life and in my English knowledge.”
The IELTS test was not so easy, Mrs Braun said.
“It would be a really interesting experience for local people to attempt to try to take that exam, because it’s not so easy,” she said.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said increasing diversity in the region had positive benefits.
“There is certainly a far greater diversity to the population of Central Otago, and indeed in New Zealand than there was when I was growing up,” Mr Cadogan said.
“All these cultures bring new opportunities to share and to learn, and that can only enrich all of our lives.”