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Ethnic migrant communities, including the Kiwi-Indian community would be keen to ensure that they remain equally visible and engaged with the country’s new leader as they were, at least perceived to be, with Jacinda Ardern. 

Two successive charismatic leaders, Ardern and Key, who enjoyed unprecedented popularity amongst the country’s otherwise “invisible” minorities have galvanized the participation of ethnic communities, including the Kiwi-Indian community, in the country's political process, like never before.

This enhanced level of engagement between the country’s top political leadership and ethnic migrant communities has been more active in Auckland, primarily for two reasons. First, Auckland being the largest city of New Zealand, is home to a major chunk of the ethnic migrant population, and second, the fact that the two leaders, Ardern and Key, were from the Auckland region thus created more opportunities of engagement by virtue of them being local electorate MPs.

Prime Minister “Hutt Boy” Hipkins is not from Auckland, which makes him a  bit of a lesser-known face for the ethnic migrant communities in Auckland, who have been pampered in recent years with copious exposure to the country’s Prime Ministers.

Hipkins brings with him a reputation of being “Mr Fix it” whom Jacinda Ardern often handed the task of fixing the mess created in other ministries and portfolios and bail the government out.

It seems that Hipkins will have to rely more closely on his lieutenants and local electorate MPs, the likes of Michael Wood, who are believed to be more connected with the ethnic migrant communities to get a better understanding of their aspirations and expectations, if he chooses to prioritize them at all in his already growing list of priorities. 

Hipkins has already given strong signals that he will be retracting some of the Labour Party’s policy decisions and bringing it more to the centre than left of the centre, where it has meandered in recent years.

So, it is not yet clear if connecting intrinsically with the country’s ethnic migrant communities will be an immediate priority for Hipkins or not.

However, some of Hipkins’ assertions of focusing on the here-and-now issues gives a glimmer of hope to the ethnic migrant communities on what they can expect under his premiership.

It is important to note that in recent years, despite Ardern’s overall popularity amongst the ethnic migrant communities, something was going amiss, at least with the Kiwi-Indian community, that has caused frustration.

Undeniably, some of the most pressing issues that the Kiwi-Indian community have faced in recent years - partnership visa issues, separated families due to perceived bias against Indian marriages, deteriorating law and order and aggravated attack on dairies and retailers have risen under the eyes of the outgoing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership.

Ardern’s charismatic leadership had, till now, kept that growing sense of palpable frustration under the lid and prevented vocal disappointment with the Labour Party.

Local MP Michael Wood, ever since becoming the Immigration Minister, has acted assiduously by demonstrating some degree of purpose in clearing the mess left by previous ministers to prevent further loss of support towards the party.

While immigration bungles have largely affected new migrants in the country, whose lives, in general, are scattered around different countries and international borders and depend on more compassionate and uncomplicated immigration policies, the deteriorating law and order and rising attacks on dairy store and retail operators have affected the long term settled ethnic migrant communities.

The recent death of a Kiwi-Indian dairy worker in Auckland has exacerbated the long-held fear and a deep sense of frustration within the wider ethnic migrant communities, who are largely at the forefront of the country’s vast network of dairy stores and have never experienced such a level of helplessness and absence of support from the government authorities and decision-makers.

Hipkins, who already holds the portfolio of Police Minister and is well apprised of the level of fear and frustration within the retail operators, would need to do something more than just mere lip service.

That sense of fear, frustration and helplessness experienced within a segment of ethnic migrant communities is real, despite what the so-called progressive thinkers, academic experts and authorities convey to the government.

Hipkins’ leadership, sensitivity and proactiveness on these two largely ignored and incompetently handled issues around retail crime and immigration matters (at least before the ascent of Michael Wood) would shape the future relationship between the ethnic migrant communities and the Labour party.

To be fair to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, neither of the two issues are simple and black and white and are complex and interrelated and would involve creative thinking, deft handling and decisive action.

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