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Welcome home . . . New citizens are welcomed by Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher at the council chambers on Monday: Back, from left, Ammon Tu'itavake (2, Tonga), Leimoni Tu'itavake (Tonga), Lisia Babe Mohulamu Tu'itavake (12, Tonga), Sione Sikipio Dave Tu'itavake (11, Tonga), Sione Ma'ake'Ahota'e'iloa Tu'itavake (14,Tonga), Malu 'A Taufa Falepaini (Tonga), Layla Balsink (accompanying mother Carla Vaag), Sarah Sharp (UK), Taani Taufa Vaitohi (Tonga), Mr Kircher, Sionetupe Kolipoki Tu'itavake (15, Tonga); middle, Toakase Tu'itavake (Tonga), Mele'ofa Tu'itavake (20 months, Tonga), Sheryl Hedlund (Philippines), Hilary Bray (UK), Annette Faulkner (Australia), Carla Van Haag (Holland), Rosalie Tiddy (Philippines), Raquel Rohkamp (Philippines), David Hansen (Denmark); front, Litia Tu'itavake (6, Tonga), Moroni Tu'itavake (4, Tonga), Marmaduke Hansen (Denmark) and Jasmine Hansen (Denmark). PHOTO: EMILY MENKES

A Tongan family of 10 were among the 18 new citizens welcomed by Mayor Gary Kircher at the Waitaki District Council chambers on Monday afternoon.

Leimoni Tu’itavake said he was “very happy” to become a citizen alongside wife Toakase and their eight children.

The Tu’itavake family had lived in Oamaru for 10 years, and previously spent two years in Christchurch, he said.

“We’ve been here a long while. We love it here. Oamaru is a good, small place for us.”

Mrs Tu’itavake said the town was great for raising a family.

“It’s nice and quiet and there isn’t too much traffic.”

Their first four children were born in Tonga before the family moved to New Zealand to look for work. Mr Tu’itavake has been at the Alliance plant at Pukeuri since he arrived in Oamaru.

Eighteen people from seven countries were sworn in as New Zealand citizens at the ceremony.

After their affirmations, the new citizens sang the national anthem, which was led by the Waitaki Girls’ High School choir.

Mr Kircher said he was thrilled by the “great new bunch of citizens”.

He also acknowledged the lengthy citizenship process and the number of hurdles in place.

“It’s such a long process. The perseverance is appreciated.”

Mr Kircher said he was grateful to the new citizens for making Oamaru their home.

“It means a lot that they have chosen to come here and become part of our community.”