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Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti

We welcome our newest residents – people who have had to flee civil war in Syria and are resettling in Dunedin.

Refugee resettlement in Dunedin

The story thus far

Since its inception Dunedin has become home for people from across the globe. We have a proud history of welcoming over 1000 people from Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1980s and early 1990s and hosting 80 Bhutanese people at Araiteuru Marae in Dunedin for two weeks in February 2011 after the Canterbury earthquake.

In 2015 the New Zealand Government announced that Dunedin would join Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Palmerston North and Nelson as a refugee resettlement city. We will welcome the first group of people from Syria in April. These will be the first of an ongoing intake of people we will welcome to Dunedin. Refugees are people who have been forced from their homes due to conflict and persecution. Worldwide, there are now an estimated 60 million forcibly displaced people. Under the refugee quota, New Zealand accepts refugees from all over the world (link to external website, new window)

You can read more about the history of resettlement in New Zealand on the New Zealand Red Cross website (link to external website, new window). You will find more resources about refugee resettlement on the New Zealand Red Cross website (link to external website, new window).

Life in Dunedin

Dunedin is a beautiful city nestled on the Otago Harbour. It is the second largest city in Te Wai Ponamu/the South Island with a population of 120,000. The city is hub for education with New Zealand’s oldest university, the University of Otago and the Otago Polytechnic – it’s not surprising that nearly a quarter of the city’s population is aged 15 to 24 giving the city a youthful energy.

The city’s flourishing niche industries include engineering, software engineering, bio-technology and fashion.

Dunedin sits in the centre of a huge outdoor playground. Beautiful surf beaches are a 15-minute drive from the city centre.  There are many walks nearby as well as rivers, picnic areas, mountain bike tracks and Dunedin’s Botanic and Chinese Gardens.

Being close to the sea and the hills, you’re never too far from wildlife either. The Otago Peninsula is home to New Zealand fur seals, albatross, yellow-eyed penguins and the rare Hooker’s sea lion.

For more information about living in Dunedin visit the Dunedinnz website (link to external website, new window), for an overview of life in Dunedin visit the Dunedinnz website (link to external website, new window) and you can also find information about health services (link to external website, new window). Citizen Advice Bureau in Dunedin (link to external website, new window) also has resources available for people living in Dunedin including the Settling In Booklet (PDF, 660kb, new window) which outlines all the local services and activities for newcomers to the city.

How can you help Dunedin’s  newcomers

Many people want to volunteer and help those coming to settle into their new city and homes. There are a number of ways you can help.

  • Volunteer with New Zealand Red Cross (link to external website, new window) to support those coming to Dunedin – refugee support volunteers are needed on an ongoing basis and are assigned to help newcomers settle in    and navigate their new place of settlement.
  • Help new Kiwis learn English by volunteering for English Language Partners. (link to external website, new window)
  • Talk to Red Cross in Dunedin to find out what goods they need donated and organise donations with your communities.
  • Reach out – be welcoming and friendly in any interaction you may have with newcomers to Dunedin. Something as simple as having a chat over the fence, or sharing a meal may make the world of difference to someone resettling without the support of extended family and friends.
  • The refugee crisis is a global issue. You can make a financial donation to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are involved in humanitarian work both in New Zealand and overseas.
  • Contact New Zealand Red Cross (link to external website, new window) for more information about how to get involved.


Who is a refugee?

Refugees are ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. They have experienced war, persecution, discrimination, racism and oppression, and been forced to flee their homes for nothing more than their ethnicity, religion or beliefs. Many arrive in New Zealand with few to no possessions and have  left behind family members, friends, homes, schools and jobs.

Refugee status is granted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). To receive this status, people must have left their country of origin and be able to prove it is not safe for them to return home. With their lives disrupted by conflict or persecution, refugees simply seek a safe environment in which they can resettle and freely engage in society.

What is New Zealand’s  role?

New Zealand is one of a small number of countries that accept quota refugees referred by the United Nations. Currently, New Zealand accepts around 750 refugees per year. In September 2015, it was announced that an additional 600 Syrian refugees would be accepted over the next two and a half years.

The UNHCR decides which refugees are in the greatest need of resettlement and asks resettlement countries to consider accepting them. The New Zealand Government then makes the final decision about who will be included in the New Zealand quota and ensures they pass rigorous security screening.

All quota refugees are given permanent resident status upon entering New Zealand. They are no longer refugees and we refer to them as former refugees or people from a refugee background. With permanent residence status, former refugees are eligible for a range of benefits and supplementary allowances  on arrival, and enjoy the same rights as any other New Zealand permanent resident in the areas of education, health, employment and social welfare.

What is the role of  Dunedin City Council?

The Dunedin City Council supports New Zealand Red Cross and is committed to making Dunedin a welcoming city for all. The Council has advocated to central government to become a resettlement city and has also supported community efforts in advocating for this.

The arrival of former refugees has encouraged us to think about how we can better refine how we deliver services, such as health care, to our diverse community, which leads to better outcomes for everyone.

The government has produced a strategy to support those being resettled. You can read the strategy and the goals outlined in it on the New Zealand Immigration website. (link to external website, new window)

How can I learn more?

You can also read about how people who have had to leave their home countries have rebuilt their lives in New Zealand:

If you have any questions about resettlement please contact New Zealand Red Cross. (link to external website, new window)

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