Tauranga heading for greater diversity

By Ellen Irvine

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Tauranga will be a more diverse city in 10 years with a changing demographic meaning fewer New Zealand Europeans and more Maori, Asian and Pacific Island residents.

Latest projections from Statistics New Zealand estimate Tauranga's population at June last year at 128,000. Of those, Europeans made up 78 per cent, Maori 15.7 per cent, Asian 3.8 per cent and Pacific Island 2 per cent.

Projections for June 2021 are for a population of 151,200 - an increase of 17.9 per cent.

The proportion of New Zealand European residents is expected to drop slightly to 76 per cent, while the Maori population increases to 16.6 per cent, Asian 4.89 per cent and Pacific 2.4 per cent.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Tauranga will have proportionally more European residents than New Zealand as a whole, about the average number of Maori, and fewer Pacific and Asian residents.

New Zealand in 2021 is projected to be made up of 71 per cent New Zealand European, 16 per cent Maori, 14 per cent Asian and 9 per cent Pacific Island residents.

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said more ethnic diversity was "inevitable" and would make the city a more interesting place to live.

"I think Tauranga on the whole is a very tolerant and welcoming city, but we need to all try harder to be open to different cultures and embrace people from all sorts of different cultural backgrounds."

While the city was noticeably less diverse than other parts of New Zealand like Auckland and Wellington, Mr Bridges said there were strong Korean, Indian and Pacific communities in Tauranga.

"We are changing rapidly."

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby has seen evidence of the changing demographics of Tauranga, particularly the growth of the Asian community at the city's citizenship ceremonies.

"What it does is it brings in a fantastic mix when you bring new cultures into Tauranga."

Maori and Pacific Island growth had been predicted through SmartGrowth demographic work, Mr Crosby said.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Max Mason said the changes in demographics were "too small to really make a difference", but the increased population would have an impact on Tauranga.

"What's critical is the quality of these new people in terms of education, ambition and productive capability.

"If we can attract a few thousand energetic tall poppies over the next decade, their businesses will transform our local business scene into a more diversified, higher wage local economy, characterised by entrepreneurial, fast growth ventures taking our products and services to the world."

This could mean higher average family incomes, better quality of life and better jobs.

Ewa Fenn, president of Tauranga Regional Multicultural Society, said the Psa crisis was currently driving immigrants away from the Western Bay, but she believed this was a short-term issue only.

"In Tauranga, the main business for people moving here was the kiwifruit industry.

"In Te Puke, there's a bigger percentage of population of Asians, Indians, Bangladeshi, Nepalese and Pacific Islanders, because the work is there.

"I know a lot of people who are moving from Tauranga to Auckland and quite a few from Auckland to Australia."

But Mrs Fenn believed the Psa crisis would be resolved and the Western Bay's strong migrant base would attract more immigrants.

Tauranga was welcoming and tolerant to migrants "on the surface", she said.

The city could be "hostile" when large groups of certain cultures arrived but tolerance seemed to build up quickly.

"A Muslim friend of mine had some unpleasant comments and attitudes of people when she first arrived but now she is fine.

"The people from her circle, and even in the street, have got used to her, and that was only three or four years ago."

Mrs Fenn believed Tauranga on the whole was becoming more tolerant of other cultures. "It's a matter of people getting used to it.

"Now we have so many people from various nationalities in Tauranga with successful businesses and being efficient workers in the public sector, like the hospital and in the police.

"Because there's a mix, people finally get the idea that [immigrants] are not that bad actually."

Mrs Fenn said Kiwis who had travelled widely appeared to be more tolerant of other cultures.

She believed the Tauranga Multicultural Festival, now in its 13th year, had helped break down boundaries in the city.

"I hope this has in some way contributed to people accepting other cultures because they are getting to know the people, their culture, their food - that breaks the barriers."

The festival will this year be held on March 17 at the Historic Village.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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