Welcoming newcomers in regional settlements
Studies find evidence for a community-based approach

Photo: Dr Mike Mackay, AgResearch.

There are plenty of theories about how to attract and retain newcomers to a regional area, but little in the way of actual empirical evidence of success according to a recent international literature review by the BBHTC Thriving Regions researchers.

“Several international studies are examining how to attract migrants, foster their integration, and retain them in the community, but we couldn’t find anything that actually evaluated and outlined the ‘best’ strategies,” says one of the reports co-authors, Dr Mike Mackay from AgResearch.

The literature review provides strong support for developing a strategic approach to welcoming communities. Some of the papers identify key actions, says Mike. Their findings support a community-driven and broad-based approach involving a range of stakeholders to meet the needs of migrant populations. Action plans can include support for particular groups of immigrants, including the provision of housing, worker training, and adequate social services.

Mike says that the challenges presented and faced by immigrants and migrant labour entering new communities is reasonably well defined, “This is an important first step in achieving integration, but the articulation of what makes a welcoming community is an area that needs more work.”

Mike said the research team are particularly interested in active strategic thinking about the future of work, housing, and associated cultural issues in regional settlements.

“This is the particular emphasis of our work in Oamaru and to an extent, Timaru. One of our key questions is how well are newcomers, particularly workers and their families, positioned in terms of access to work, affordable housing, and culturally appropriate services?”

The team reviewed material that focused on rural community transformation and on a range of issues associated with the attraction, integration, and retention of migrants in rural communities. The review covered topics associated with immigrant populations and their attraction to and retention in mainly rural areas and small towns, including: acculturation; refugee relocation and settlement; labour migrants; the provision of community support services; immigrant organisations; immigrant and immigration discourse; rural housing; rural community transformation and revitalisation; and community resilience.

The team have organised the literature review around themes relating to the successful integration of immigrants in rural communities. These themes include:

  • The goal of ‘integration’;
  • Differentiating immigrants by resettlement purpose, ethnicity and demographic characteristics;
  • Acceptance within the host community;
  • The community context;
  • Housing; and
  • Welcoming communities.

Read the original report by the BBHTC Thriving Regions research group:

Wilson, J., Mackay, M., Perkins, H., Taylor, N. & Campbell, M. (2020). The attraction, integration, and retention of newcomers in regional settlements. Report for Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities Thriving Regions, 33pgs. Christchurch: AgResearch/BBHTC.

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Date posted: 13 May 2020