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The best means of growth comes from within

Second and Final Part

Our diversity

I believe that New Zealand has to deal more effectively with our growing diversity.

We have an immigration programme that increases our diversity almost daily.

We have no plans about how we are growing the population base of our country.

The impact of these policies on everyday communities is inexorable but they are never involved in any discourse about those policies, their impact and how they might be adapted. We take diversity as inherently good but we do not know its full impact or how to manage it in a positive way.

Extensive concept

Diversity is more than food, music and art. It is about how we live and adjust to our new home and how others adjust to our presence. I believe that the time has come for a proper conversation on our growing diversity, how big we want to grow to and how that should be determined, how to manage its implications and how to engage with the communities that are affected.

Currently our approach to diversity is ad hoc. Our immigration policy and diversity management are not dovetailed into a powerful strategy. We do not involve New Zealanders in its design and it has unintended consequences.

For me, it all starts with understanding our diverse communities and our ethnic MPs should play a central role in this and thus become an integral part of this Parliament.

Now, while ethnic MPs carry that label and have been placed on party Lists for their ethnicity, they do not have any strategic impact on this Parliament and probably not even in the various caucuses. Our communities expect more from us and political parties should think this through in more detail.

Eventful Journey

My journey through the last 50 years of service and public life has an uncanny symmetry to it. My experiences with immigration helped me understand the needs of migrants. In Race Relations, I kept an eye on our country’s overall interests and those of ethnic communities. As an Immigration Appeals Adjudicator, I understood the gaps in the system. As the Chief Families Commissioner, I learnt about the interests of families. As a Member of Parliament, I have had my share of immigration cases.

Thus when I was given the Immigration portfolio (by Labour Party), I focused on a futuristic policy in which New Zealanders were also involved because they are the most affected.

In our policy, we will not leave applicants suspended for long periods and where world leading settlement programmes would be normal.

We have to find a better way of meeting the immigration implications for cultural marriages rather than the current approach to forensic interviewing about the genuineness of their marriage.

Children wronged

My life with children and families over many years has prompted me to question why is it that we are so unsuccessful at devising a system that really places children at the centre of everything we do. Why is it that despite knowing about cases early, we are unable to avoid the disaster that was predicted, but are happy to pick up the pieces at a later stage?

Why is it that we have not managed to change vulnerable communities of more than 40 years in some cases? Why is the real potential of the school site not used to develop them as hubs of our communities?

I am pleased that some of the policies I have worked on reflect these sentiments.

Great Opportunity

I have had an opportunity to participate in one of the most stable democracies in the world. Our systems, structures, checks and balances and our transparency is the envy of the world.

This Parliament has given me the opportunity to assist the little Southern African Kingdom of Lesotho that has an MMP system like ours but with little expertise on how to run it effectively. This has led to my appointment a few days ago as a Special Envoy for the Secretary General of the Commonwealth to the Kingdom of Lesotho.

I look forward to that role. The sense of purpose I came with to Parliament will now transfer to the sense of mission I feel about my next role.

I want to acknowledge what a privilege it has been to be a Member of this Parliament for six years and I record my thanks to the many who have walked with me along the way.

Editor’s Note: The First Part of Dr Rajen Prasad’s Valedictory speech (delivered in Parliament on July 24, 2014) appeared in our August 1, 2014 issue. Please read our Editorial, ‘Proactive Policies protect future generations’ in this Section.

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