Matt Heath: A boy called Fart - why refugees are great

Publish Date
Monday, 26 June 2017, 11:23AM
Photo / Ben Motu
Photo / Ben Motu

The Greens announced last week they want to increase the quota of refugees we bring into New Zealand by 4000 within six years.

There are arguments for and against. Clearly we have a moral humanitarian obligation to take some of these unfortunate people.

But how many? We could take 100,000, bankrupt ourselves and still not solve the problem. Having said that taking a single family is huge to that particular family. Surely helping even one human in trouble is a good thing to do. So what's the right number? How many people do we save and who?

Weighing up the drain on New Zealand resources makes sense, what doesn't is stupid terror safety concerns. Refugees don't commit terrorist acts in New Zealand. No one does. Take the bomb scare at a bus stop in Dunedin last week. A suspicious package was spotted.

Someone got scared. The police were called. Of course being Dunedin and being New Zealand it turned out to be a birthday cake. A cake that wasn't planted by terrorists.

The key point here is refugees didn't blow up the Rainbow Warrior or the Wanganui computer. It was some French visitors and some guy called Neil Roberts.

Personally my experiences with refugees have been extremely positive.

One morning many years ago at my primary it was announced to the class that a bunch of refugees were coming to our school. In fact one would be joining our class that very day.

He was from Burma or somewhere and he was waiting outside to come in. Our school was monochromatic at best. In fact it may well have been 100 per cent pakeha. We all looked the same and spoke the same. So we were excited. Keen to meet this exotic outsider. Keen to hear his story.

But Mrs Pegg was deeply concerned. Something was bugging her. She looked nervous. In her view we would need to be thoroughly prepared before the boy entered the class. So while the poor boy waited outside in the cold Egg (as we called Mrs Pegg) spent half an hour explaining that being a refugee was tough, that our new classmate didn't speak much English and that we all had to be nice.

But mostly she made all of us promise individually that we wouldn't laugh when we heard his name. Which in retrospect was an incredibly stupid thing for her to do. You can't stop kids from laughing especially when they hear something really funny and this kids name was really really funny. So funny. I still laugh to this day when I remember his introduction. "Room 3 this is Fart".

His name was Fart. The class exploded in laughter and I was sent to the principal's office. It's still funny. "Room 3 this is Fart". Even Fart was laughing.

Later I found out his name was actually "Vart" and not "Fart". Vart was awesome. Funny. Interesting. So we gave Vart the nickname Fart.

Turns out Fart was a kick arse footy player and a hell of a good dude. He integrated into the school quickly.

The point is, at a punishingly white middle class primary school where everyone looked and spoke the same, a boy called Fart fitted in. He bought joy and laughter to the school.

He helped us understand the larger world. He gave us perspective.

Fart was a great New Zealander.

The Greens want 4000 more refugees a year. Some people want less. Some people want none. Some people want less than none.

The way I see it, we are the lucky ones. There are so many people less fortunate across the globe who need our help.

We have to do something. But how many refugees should we take? How do we work it out? I don't know. I do however know this for sure, more Varts wouldn't be a bad thing.

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission.