Agencies probe Samoan migrants' living conditions
By Cleo Fraser
Government and local authorities are investigating reports of sub-standard living conditions for Samoan migrants recruited to work at a meat plant in a small Waikato town.
There have been reports of families living in Benneydale in homes that are not insulated and have no heating, are isolated and have no public transport or interpreters.
One migrant told Radio New Zealand their home had broken windows, holes in the walls and dirty carpet ridden with fleas. Both her children have had to go to hospital with skin infections.
In a report to Waikato District Health Board (WDHB), Te Kuiti Hospital manager Thia Priestly says families arrive in Benneydale to work at Crusader Meats unaware the town has no shops or transport.
Waitomo Mayor Brian Hanna said the council is investigating reports that some rental homes in Benneydale are in a poor condition.
Inspections have been carried out at some of the houses and the council is working with a number of agencies to address the issue, he says.
Immigration New Zealand acting general manager of settlement, protection and attraction, Atul Prema, says the agency has not received any formal complaints but will be following up on reports.
This includes contacting Crusader Meats and the inter-agency settlement network for Waikato.
Mr Prema says the department is taking the allegations very seriously.
WDHB medical officer of health Dell Hood said staff are contributing to a community-led response to the reports.
She says the issues highlighted in Benneydale are affecting many small and isolated communities, especially those which developed around industries which have since closed.
Benneydale was originally a coal mining town and the local meat plant positively influenced the community through employment, she says.
A Crusader Meats representative did not return calls but it is understood management were not aware of the extent of the problems facing migrants and are working along-side agencies.
About 30 of its 160 staff have been recruited from Samoa.