History of Immigration and Present Situation in New Zealand

Author: Rose Godfrey


My name is Rose Godfrey neé Scicluna. I was born and raised in Hamrun, Malta. I have been living in Auckland, New Zealand since 1968.

It is a great honour to be invited to participate in this Convention.

1. History of Immigration

When I received this invitation to attend, I began to research the Malta/New Zealand connection and found that regrettably not much is known or has been documented about Maltese immigrants in New Zealand.

Both census data and immigration records are available but these do not give true reflection of the total numbers of ethnic Maltese living in New Zealand. Anomalies occur due to the nature of the questionnaire format on Government census forms and the generalisation of grouping individual countries into regions. e.g. A Maltese person may have been deemed to have come from Southern Europe. Also female Maltese, who through marriage changed their maiden names to that of their partners and could have also changed their nationality as well. This causes great difficulty in being able to trace them.

Census data available from New Zealand archives revealed that Maltese (by place of birth) were living in New Zealand as early as 1874. It is most likely that these early Maltese immigrants would have been listed as having arrived from "British Possessions", which is an early reference to the British Empire. They would have most probably arrived via Australia.

After the 2nd World War, many European families immigrated to other parts of the world for better life and job opportunities; these included people from Malta. A few came to settle in New Zealand. In most cases the husband would have immigrated first, and the family followed later. In some cases this was up to four years.

In the early 1950s the number of Maltese migrating steadily rose. The route to New Zealand was either an official one or as my inquiries discovered there was an alternative route. The practice of Maltese sailors "jumping ship" added also to the immigrant population; although not officially sanctioned it was a fact of life. Who could blame them? A new life in a green and verdant country would have looked idyllic to a young sailor after the devastation of his homeland from the Axis bombing.

In response to a series of advertisements placed in "The Times of Malta" during the period 1964 to 1967 which called for "Tradesmen required in New Zealand" these employment opportunities were applied for through the Emigration Department in Valletta. Some came in ’64 and others in the following years. Some potential immigrants who already had relatives in New Zealand found it easier to immigrate.

The Maltese community within New Zealand is comparatively small and widespread, considering the total land area is approximately the same as that of the United Kingdom but our population is only 3.75 million people. The numbers of Maltese families living across the length and breadth of the country were possibly unaware of each other. This did not prevent the determination of two young ladies, Çettina Borg, who was born in Malta and brought up in Australia and Margaret Ohio, youngest daughter from a family of eight children – Margaret was the only child of this family to have been born in New Zealand. (I have permission to use names.)

Cettina and Margaret were very interested in their Maltese origin and heritage. In 1981 they wrote an article for "The New Zealand Herald", one of New Zealand’s leading newspapers. The subject matter was a call for any Maltese or people with Maltese connections who were interested in meeting other Maltese families to contact either of them. The response was swift and most surprising; they received calls from all over the country, even from persons who served in Malta with the Allied Forces. One of the replies was from a Maltese restaurant owner, who offered his premises and services for a function. The first meeting was held on the 4th October 1981 at the "El Travador" Restaurant. The end result of which was the formation of an incorporated society "The Malta Society of New Zealand". It is still going from strength to strength.


Refer to appendix.


Refer to appendix.

4.The Present Situation

Quotes from: Immigration and New Zealand – A Statement of Current Immigration Policies. (1983 issue)

Part 1: Objectives Of Immigration Policies

1. Current policy on permanent entry is controlled and selective; to ensure that the numbers of migrants accepted do not exceed New Zealand’s capacity to provide employment, housing and community services.

Part 3: Settlement In New Zealand – Permanent Entry Policies:

(a)Entry on Occupational Grounds.

(b)Entry on Family Reunification Grounds.

(c)Entry on Humanitarian Grounds.

Part 4: Re-Entry Permit

A re-entry permit is required for non New Zealand citizens.

After nearly 125 years since the first Maltese immigrants arrived and settled in New Zealand, the Maltese community is still small by comparison to other countries. Statistical records (refer Appendix 2) of these immigrants who sought permanent residency are balanced with both immigrants arriving and leaving New Zealand being accounted for.

In recent years and though a survey I have done the majority of Maltese families or Maltese descendants now living in New Zealand had first migrated to other countries, e.g. Great Britain, Australia and most recently from South Africa. Most of the families settled in the main centres, Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.

The proportion of mixed marriages, whereby only one of the partners is of Maltese extraction is very high. There is also a wide diversity in the nationalities of partners. Consequently the incidence of both partners being Maltese is low: an approximation within the membership of "The Malta Society of New Zealand" is under 10%.

The last New Zealand Census was held in 1996. Once again because of a change of the questionnaire format, there are no records of Maltese by country of birth. This could mean two reasons; either Maltese can be deemed as Europeans or Maltese may have changed nationality.


The lack of reference information on how extensive the Maltese community of New Zealand is, needs to be redressed. Therefore it is very important that the Department of Immigration in Malta or "Dar l-Emigrant" is better informed and has a list of the Maltese community groups in New Zealand, so that Maltese immigrants in New Zealand or those intending immigrating are not forgotten. For the best interest of Maltese abroad incumbent representatives of Malta should co-operate more and communicate with the Maltese communities in their respective countries.


In whichever country we the Maltese immigrants live – to always remember "Lil din l-Art Helwa".

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