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Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has announced new members to the Welcoming Communities programme.

Three new Councils and regions have joined the programme designed to create inclusive environments where all residents can thrive and belong.

The Central Otago District Council, the Queenstown Lakes District Council, and the Rangitīkei District Council are new additions to the programme. Their involvement follows the Hamilton City Council, the Horowhenua District Council, and the Masterton District Council joining the initiative earlier this year.

There are now 15 Councils and 11 regions across New Zealand that are part of Welcoming Communities.

Immigration New Zealand’s General Manager of Refugee and Migrant Services Fiona Whiteridge said it was great to have the new participants on board.

“This is the second time this year we’ve been able to announce new regions joining the Welcoming Communities programme. It’s great to see more and more councils taking part in a programme that’s an important tool in making communities stronger and improving social cohesion. Welcoming Communities are stronger communities, and that’s a win for all involved”.

Meanwhile, Central Otago District Council Mayor Tim Cadogan says it was exciting for the region to be joining the Welcoming Communities programme.

“We are proud to be one of the first councils in Otago to roll out this programme, which will enable Council to work alongside and support local community groups already working hard to put the proverbial ‘welcome mat’ out,” Mr Cadogan said.

“We like to think we have a community that welcomes both new residents and visitors to our ‘World of Difference’, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t jump at the chance to look at new and better ways we can assist newcomers to integrate into our communities and settle here in our district,” he said.

The next steps would see INZ work with the new participants to help them meet the standards required to achieve formal Welcoming Communities accreditation.

More information about this and support is available on the INZ website.