For many New Zealanders, the COVID-19 lockdown robbed them of the chance to celebrate special occasions and mark significant milestones.
For new Kiwis set to officially become New Zealanders, the lockdown stole their opportunity to receive citizenship at a formal ceremony, alongside loved ones and in front of elected representatives.
That wrong was put right last night (Monday 10 August) as Hamilton City Council hosted a ‘citizenship celebration’ for Hamiltonians who were due to become a New Zealand citizen since prior to the impact of COVID-19.
The Council hosts 12 citizenship ceremonies every year on behalf of the Department of Internal Affairs. Held at Hamilton Gardens, the ceremonies regularly see more than 100 people receive their citizenship certificates, swear an oath or affirmation, and be gifted a koowhai tree as a symbol of the roots they have laid on new soil.
However, the last ceremony was in February, with the more than 600 Hamiltonians who’d become New Zealanders since receiving their certificates in the post rather in person.
Last night’s celebration at Claudelands Events Centre was put on by the Council to recognise that the official ceremony is important rite of passage in the citizenship process.
“We are holding this special event tonight as it was not possible for our monthly citizenship ceremonies to take place during COVID lockdown,” said Master of Ceremonies Kay Hale. “While you will have received your certificates in the post, you have not had the opportunity to experience an official ceremony, so we wanted to give you the chance to participate in some of those special moments tonight.”
The attendees, hailing from 35 countries, were presented a letter of congratulations and their koowhai tree from Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate
“Tonight’s ceremony has been a very long time coming – years and years for many of you,” said Mayor Southgate. “And then, after all that many of you have been through to become New Zealanders, to have your citizenship ceremony thwarted by a global pandemic – I know that was really distressing.
“First and foremost, I want to thank you all for choosing to come to New Zealand, and then to Hamilton. Some of you may, in fact, not have had much choice.
“I want to acknowledge that for some of you – particularly those who have come here as refugees – that your journey has been arduous and long and difficult, and that you have made enormous sacrifices.
“To those other immigrants who have chosen Kirikiroroa/Hamilton as your permanent home, thank you. I want you all to know that we have something in common.
“By becoming citizens today, you now share a unique bond with other New Zealanders; a very strong bond that links us together tightly.”