Wave of Dutch Migration

With the end of World War II came the greatest influx of Dutch to New Zealand. Most of those who came in 1945/1946 were evacuees from Indonesia. They were supposed to stay here temporarily, but New Zealand’s attitude towards Dutch migrants had changed a lot since the 1930s. Instead of cautiously accepting migrants, they were graciously welcomed. Prime Minister Peter Fraser made this perfectly clear during a speech in 1946. He was visiting one of the camps the Dutch stayed in when he said: We are glad to open our doors to you and we would like to keep some of you.

The first arrivals, both from the Netherlands and from the Dutch East Indies, impressed employers. The Dutch soon had a reputation of being hard workers who didn’t give any trouble. This set the scene for mass immigration. 1950 was the year in which everything was put on a proper footing. It became clear that New Zealand desperately needed more workers and could not get enough of them from Britain. New Zealand asked the Netherlands if it could recruit 2000 skilled migrants. This move was made on pragmatic grounds and both countries stood to gain from the arrangement.

After the war the Netherlands struggled to reconstruct its ruined economy and society. For the Dutch government emigration was the simple solution to many of its problems. It was prepared to pay its nationals to leave, and mounted a campaign to persuade them to do so. New Zealand’s economy had benefited from contributing to the war effort and was booming. Labour however, was in short supply.Both countries agreed to share the cost of moving migrants to New Zealand with the signing of the Migration Treaty in 1950. The New Zealand Assisted Passage Scheme, as the arrangement was called, included a limited number of Dutch citizens with special skills. About a quarter of the post-war Dutch settlers were subsidized this way. The migrants in return had to perform a job assigned to them for at least two years.

Most Dutch migrants in the 1950s were single male skilled workers from the lower middle class. They were mostly young, with an average age of 25. The Dutch came to be seen as sensible and hardworking nation builders. Some of this first wave even attracted criticism for working too hard, and were told to slow down in the workplace. The industrious Dutchie soon became a national archetype, and qualities such as thrift and abruptness were seen as typical of the new arrivals.This stereotype still characterizes Dutch in New Zealand of whom it is said that they are too honest to be polite, while the British-influenced people here are too polite to be honest.

The Dutch migrants in this period have been called a lost generation, scarred by the disruptions and trauma of economic depression and military occupation in the Netherlands. On reaching their adopted country, many kept their heads down and suppressed their heritage. They integrated quite well. One of the reasons for this was that on arrival, all new migrants faced pressure to discard their Dutchness. In the early 1950s the New Zealand government wanted settlers to blend, socially and culturally, into the British-influenced society.

The pressure to drop their own language and culture and become a New Zealand citizen was strong. The Dutch migrants were scattered over the country and because of this there were few opportunities for them to use Dutch or keep the Dutch culture alive outside the family. The determination of the Dutch to assimilate completely into their adopted society is also due to the Dutch character.

Although most migrants just wanted to assimilate in New Zealand, efforts were made within the migrant community to keep cultural roots alive through Dutch clubs and celebrations of annual festivals like Sinterklaas and Queen’s/King’s Day. Many migrants however rejected this idea of a communal identity. Despite their desire for assimilation, 60% of the first generation migrants kept their Dutch nationality.

Many Dutch migrants contributed to New Zealand. By introducing new customs and foods, ideas and practices, the Dutch have helped shape the way of life in New Zealand. Vogel’s bread, Van Camp chocolate and Verkerks smallgoods are among the foods introduced by the Dutch. Tulips and the Friesian cow are a typical Dutch contribution to the New Zealand landscape, and Dutch expertise and knowledge contributed to the dairy industry in New Zealand. Also, the Lockwood home, which has become a Kiwi institution, was invented by two Dutch settlers. An interest in sports was also something Dutch immigrants brought with them. Football in particular has been greatly supported by the settler community.

Dutch immigrants have brought fresh and challenging ideas and Dutch artists have played a significant role in the development of New Zealand art. Indonesian-born artist Theo Schoon occupies a significant place in New Zealand art for helping stimulate interest in jade carving, Maori rock drawings, and gourd carving. Frank Carpay was an innovative designer and decorator of ceramics at Crown Lynn Potteries. Ans Westra’s images, especially of Maori, have helped ensure her reputation as one of New Zealand’s greatest photographers. Also thanks to a Dutch migrant, licensing laws were changed to allow restaurants to serve wine with food. In the mid-1950s, Otto Groen challenged the conservative drinking laws of the day. His restaurant, The Gourmet, later became the first in the country to be granted a licence to serve liquor in 1961.


Continue to  Dutch Influence After 1960.

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