Auckland: A new wave

By Dr Ward Friesen

As Auckland merges to create a supercity, the Herald looks back at how Auckland has changed over the years. Click here to view the full series.

At the beginning of the 21st century, immigration is an important
issue in New Zealand and Auckland, and much of the public and media focus relates to the increasing ethnic diversification of the population.

A century earlier, immigration had a very different meaning and impact. For more than a century after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840,
immigration was largely about British settlement in New Zealand.

Though we tend to think of these migrants as farmers who settled the land after the Land Wars of the 1860s, there were also skilled tradespeople, white-collar workers and entrepreneurs who settled in
urban areas.

In the 19th century, Maori were sometimes called New Zealanders; by the first half of the 20th century this term tended to apply more to the Pakeha population, with the great majority of these being of English, Scottish and Irish origin.

There were some notable exceptions to British immigration before the 1950s. The gold rushes in Otago in the 1860s resulted in an influx of
Chinese workers to the goldfields.

Though some of these sojourners returned to China, or moved elsewhere after the rushes ended, many stayed in New Zealand and moved to urban centres. By the end of the 19th century, Auckland had an established Chinese community, many working in market gardening or retailing.

Another significant migrant group to arrive in the late 19th century was the Dalmatians. Initially many came to work in the gumfields to the north of Auckland, but many diversified into other activities, the vineyards to the west of Auckland being a notable legacy.

One other non-British migrant group in Auckland in the first half of the 20th century were the Indians, some of whom had moved on from the indentured labour system of Fiji and others who came as independent traders and established themselves in various economic sectors, especially green-groceries and dairies.

Of course, many of the New Zealand-born descendants of these non-British migrants have, through education and hard work, become well-represented in the professions and other highly skilled occupations.

After World War II new waves of migrants arrived in New Zealand, and in each case Auckland was an important place of settlement.

The post-war economic boom resulted in an expansion of manufacturing and demand for labour resulting in the urbanisation of Maori as well as the opportunity for migration from the Pacific nations which were still New Zealand colonies at that time - (Western) Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau.

Central Auckland provided many employment opportunities for these immigrants on the wharves, in factories, and in hospitals among other places.

Pacific immigration continued for decades after this, with other countries also becoming important in these movements, especially Tonga and Fiji.

Though some of these migrants settled in other parts of
New Zealand, they also dispersed to other parts of the Auckland region, and recent censuses show that about two-thirds of New Zealand's Pacific population has settled in greater Auckland.

British immigration continued to be important after World War II but another European group, the Dutch, were favoured migrants in the 1950s and 1960s.

Refugee movements have formed an important part of New Zealand and Auckland's immigration. Jewish and other displaced peoples arrived as refugees in the post-war period and into the 1950s.

New Zealand signed the UN Convention on Refugees in 1960 and each year accepts 750 "quota" refugees as well as an average of 300 asylum-seekers a year in recent years.

In the 1970s, a new wave of refugees resulted from the Vietnam War; the largest groups being Vietnamese and Cambodian. Though they were intentionally settled with sponsors in various parts of New Zealand, in
the longer term many from other parts moved on to the largest clusters in Auckland.

Refugee intakes in recent years have also been an outcome of conflicts in various parts of the world with significant numbers arriving from Chile, Somalia,Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

The most dramatic shift in immigration policy and patterns in the 20th century was a result of the Immigration Act 1987. It replaced the "favoured country" criteria for migrant selection, which had favoured European and Pacific countries, with criteria based on age, education, skills and investment potential.

Even though Great Britain remained the single most important country of origin after 1987, a significant result of this change in immigration policy was a dramatic increase in immigration from Asia.

The largest numbers have arrived from China, India, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Malaysia, but many other Asian countries are represented as well.

The greatest impact of these "new" migrations has been in Auckland, where two-thirds of all Asian migrants have settled. Whereas there were about 13,000 Asia-born residents of Auckland in 1986, 20 years later this number had multiplied by about 12 times to more than 165,000.

New Asian "ethnoscapes" have become apparent in Auckland, often with certain Asian groups predominating. Chinese shops, restaurants and temples are obvious in various parts of Auckland, with well-known examples in Sommerville and Dannemora in South Auckland, in New Lynn and along Dominion Road.

There are Indian shops, restaurants, temples, and mosques in Mt Albert and Mt Roskill as well as in parts of Manukau City. Less visible aspects of these ethnoscapes include newspapers, radio stations, and ethnic associations which serve to support new migrants in a direct sense as well as support linguistic and cultural maintenance, but also help to provide links to other ethnic groups in Auckland.

The number and variety of migrants has also increased, with people coming from the Middle East, other parts of Africa, Europe (including Eastern Europe) and the Americas.

The variety of new migrants does not only relate to those who have come as permanent residents, but also in terms of increasing numbers who have arrived since the mid-1990s as international students and, over many years, those who have come on working permits. Many of these students and workers have later applied for permanent residency, often successfully.

In the 2006 Census, many people identified themselves as "New Zealanders", some because they thought "New Zealand European" was not applicable to them, others because they had multiple ethnic backgrounds, and still others as a sign of commitment to their new country of
residence. However, underlying these statements of nationality lie a great deal of ethnic diversity, and the place where these multiple
identities are being contested, negotiated - and celebrated - is Auckland.

Dr Wardlow Friesen is a senior lecturer in geography in the School of Environment at the University of Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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