Over the years, there have been a growing number Irish men and women moving to New Zealand in search of a better future. This, among other reasons, is what prompted a group of Irish businesses and workers in the country to set up a new organisation that seeks to help thousands of people who have travelled from the Emerald Isle to New Zealand to work or study.
The Irish Business Network of New Zealand or IBNNZ has held its inaugural meeting in Auckland to celebrate the launch of the organisation. The people behind the initiative hoped that the launch of IBNNZ will bring the ex-pat community together.
Grainne Moss, managing director of BUPA Care Services New Zealand, delivered an inspirational speech during the event. The Belfast-born executive is one of the few female managing directors in the country. Aside from running BUPA, which has 4000 sites and 70 staff in New Zealand, she is also famous for being the first Irish woman to swim in the English Channel and Cook Strait.
Throughout the years, New Zealand has become one of the most popular destinations for Irish people looking for a better life. In the 2001 to 2002 financial year, a total of 2,273 Irish people were granted work visas by the New Zealand government. But by 2008 to 2008, the figure more than doubled to 4,574. Also, it has been estimated that more than half a million of people living in the country have some Irish heritage.
“In the last few years, the numbers of Irish people who are coming to New Zealand either to visit or to work on a one year visas for example, has increased massively. You can find people from Ireland in every sector, from bars and restaurants trade to construction,” said Niamh McMahon, a founding member of IBNNZ and a partner at Auckland-based law firm McMahon Butterworth Thompson.
He added that in particular, the Irish community in Christchurch has grown in number since an earthquake struck the city in 2011. Mr McMahon attributed the growth to dozens of skilled workers who travelled from Ireland to take up jobs in the reconstruction projects in Christchurch.
Aside from providing assistance for Irish people working in New Zealand, meanwhile, IBNNZ also wants to help Irish businesses that were looking to trade or set up offices in the country. Mr McMahon said the organisation wants to be a network that Irish people can rely on for introductions or advice.