2 Oct 2012

Samoan migrants' living conditions investigated

8:45 pm on 2 October 2012

Health and welfare agencies are investigating claims of substandard living conditions for Samoan migrants recruited to work in a meat plant in the Waikato township of Benneydale.

The Waikato District Health Board is leading an inquiry into reports that some families are living in houses with no heating, are isolated and have no public transport or interpreters.

Waitomo District Council environmental health officer Lindsay Norris says it's clear some of the Samoan families are living in substandard housing, and he'll be taking those cases up with the landlords.

In a report to the health board, Te Kuiti Hospital manager Thia Priestly says it's a problem that's gone unchecked since 2009.

She says the families arrive unaware that Benneydale is so isolated and has no shops and no public transport. After a year of frustration, they move to Te Kuiti and there's another influx from Samoa to face the same problems.

Crusader Meats, which has recruited 30 of its 160 staff from Samoa, says it wasn't aware how bad the problems were and is prepared to work with the DHB and the council to try and help the families, especially with housing.

Waitomo mayor Brian Hanna says his council will have to take up the issues facing the migrants with government agencies.

Migrants 'need more support'

The chief executive of the community group K'aute Pasifika, Peta Karalus, says the problems highlight the lack of settlement support for Pacific migrants.

She says the immigration service has to have a look at what it is doing, including the adequacy of the information people are provided with before they come to New Zealand.

Ms Karalus says workers brought from Samoa under the quota scheme also need to be supported for longer, while they settle in.

Immigration New Zealand says it has had no formal complaints but will be talking to Crusader Meats and the other agencies involved.