Multiculture energises our region


Nearly 2000 people migrate to the Bay of Plenty from overseas every year, and it is changing the cultural face of the region.

Government statistics show that nearly a quarter, 22.9 per cent, of all New Zealanders were born overseas. The Bay of Plenty figures dip below that at 14.9 per cent.

However, with a new census under way the percentage is expected to rise.

The region is already home to New Zealand's largest Indian population outside Auckland.

Helen Gould is the Settlement Support Information Officer at Settlement Support New Zealand's (SSNZ) Tauranga/Western Bay of Plenty office.

"Over the last 25 years New Zealand's cultural and ethnic make-up has changed significantly," Miss Gould said. "This rapid change, which has seen New Zealand quietly become one of the most multicultural countries on the planet, has crept up on many of us."

The countries of origin of those migrants was also beginning to shift focus from the traditionally dominant places such as the UK.

"An average of around 1900 people migrate to the area annually from overseas. Anecdotally we are seeing an increase in populations from India, China, Germany, Italy, Brazil and South Africa."

Many newcomers had established businesses, and highly represented in that were the Chinese - they owned and operated 500 businesses in the Bay.

Miss Gould said there were many benefits in the increasing diversity, including economic ones.

"The wider skills and, in some cases, capital and entrepreneurship that migrants can bring are incredibly valuable in providing a wider base to our economy beyond primary production; utilising backgrounds in technology, manufacturing, education, business and so on," she said.

"There is also much to learn from some migrant sectors, which have incredibly strong work ethics."

Increased multiculturalism could also promote more global and accepting attitudes.

"Being part of a diverse community can help to prepare us for a multicultural world. This will provide us with huge advantages when we travel overseas or come into contact with people from different backgrounds either in the workplace, in our clubs or sports teams or socially.

"We are better able to handle situations which are culturally different from our own and we have a greater understanding of the people that we come into contact with."

In Auckland 40 per cent of citizens were born overseas. Tauranga National MP and cabinet minister Simon Bridges said he had noted the increasingly mixed nature of the nation's population.

"In factual terms, New Zealand is no longer a bicultural society. It is a multicultural one," he said.

"I think a lot of people don't appreciate that New Zealand and Tauranga are really changing in terms of ethnic and cultural make-up.

"I see it in my constituency and community work. For example, on Sunday I am attending the opening of a new Sikh temple in Tauranga.

"I spend quite a lot of time with the Indian community and I see them becoming an increasingly significant part of our area economically. I think that as migrants to this country they really appreciate it."

Mr Bridges said Indian people were already well represented in horticulture, restaurants, the taxi industry and the service sector in general.

He said the Korean community was also significant, the Chinese community was small but growing, there was an enduring community of Filipinos, along with pockets of other cultures such as Brazilians in Mt Maunganui.

Mr Bridges said he felt one of the benefits of increased multiculturalism was increased tolerance through exposure to people originally from other countries.

"New cultures add to the flavour of a city and overall increasing diversity is a really good thing," Mr Bridges said. "It's like anything though, there's a balance to be had. Change is inevitable but any sort of growth needs to be managed and thought through."

SSNZ Tauranga/Western Bay of Plenty provides free services for migrants and the employers of migrants.

For details call (07) 579 6532.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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