Temporary colourful vinyl stickers with the word ‘welcome’ in different languages have been installed on the risers of the steps out the front of the Waitaki District Council Offices in Ōamaru as part of the Kaupapa Kanorau – Project of Diversity initiated by the Waitaki District Youth Council. This is a public display of inclusion and recognition of the diversity of the Waitaki population.
“Many cities and districts across Aotearoa, New Zealand and the world offer public displays of diversity. This is a great opportunity for Waitaki to show-off what we have to offer and follow-suit,” said Mady Rawson, who was Deputy Chair of the Youth Council when the project was proposed.
After a proposal in December 2021 to add colour to the Ouse Street roundabout was voted against by Council due to concerns around roading distractions and a lack of community consultation, feedback from Elected Members was taken on board by the Youth Council and work was done on consulting with the community, adapting the project, and proposing a range of options.
‘Stickers of Diversity’ were suggested as an option, inspired by the Forrester Gallery which promoted its Burns collection exhibition through sticker designs placed on the steps of the gallery. As these can be easily adapted and removed, this was thought to be a good option. It has been fully funded out of the existing Youth Council allocated budget.
Councillor Rebecca Ryan said "The intent of Kaupapa Kanorau – Project of Diversity was to acknowledge the diversity that exists in Waitaki, showing support, in particular, for our Rainbow (LGBTQIA+) community. I hope this initiative will help foster a real sense of acceptance, acknowledgment and identity for members of our Rainbow community - and will help portray Waitaki as a place where everyone feels welcome, valued, and, most importantly, safe. I’m really proud of our Youth Council for leading the project and being so confident and passionate about what they believe in.”
Mayor for Waitaki Gary Kircher said “I’m very supportive of this initiative to acknowledge the importance of celebrating the cultural make-up of the district, and all of Waitaki’s minority groups that may not feel like they are properly represented,” adding “this week is Samoan Language Week in NZ and next week is International Languages Week, so the timing for getting the multiple languages on Council's steps is excellent!”
Ethan Reille, previous Youth Council Chair, has worked on bringing the Project of Diversity to fruition over the last two years. Mr Reille said “This project is for Waitaki, led by Waitaki. The Youth Council appreciated and took into consideration all feedback offered by Council and have worked hard to ensure our project is culturally appropriate and inclusive for all.”
“At the end of the day, it is just a design, which poses no physical conflict to the public. Young people have been doing it tough the past few years, everyone has. So this is a nice way to celebrate our sense of community we have upheld during these challenging times. This project will not only signal our district’s support for the diversity, minority and cultural groups we have, but also a project we can all work towards developing and being part of.”
A small ‘unveiling’ event was held out the front of Council HQ on Wednesday 31 May, attended by the Mayor, Councillors, Waitaki Multicultural Council representatives and community members.