'Asian enclave' good for Auckland - sociologist

By Paul Harper

Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Around a quarter of Aucklanders will be of Asian descent in five years - but "Asian enclaves" are a good thing for the city, sociologist Paul Spoonley says.

The issue of Asian migration has been recently raised by the Right Wing Resistance, led by former National Front leader Kyle Chapman.

The group is planning an Anti-Asian rally to protest against mass Asian immigration, which Mr Chapman claimed "stole jobs".

A date has yet to be set for the rally.

At the last census in 2006, the Asian ethnic group (which includes people from the sub-continent) totaled 354,552 people (9.2 per cent), making it the fourth largest ethnic group in New Zealand, following European, Maori and "other ethnicity".

Almost one in five (18.9 per cent) people in Auckland identified with one or more Asian ethnic groups, the highest proportion in the country.

Those of European ethnicity are forecast to drop from 76.8 per cent in 2006 to 69.5 per cent in 2026.

Mr Spoonley says the growth of immigration from Asia has been "enormous" since 1986, particularly since 2000.

"I've done some forecasts as well ... my pick is that a quarter of Auckland will be Asian by 2016."

He says "ethnic precincts" have mushroomed in places such as Dominion Road, Somerville, and Northcote in recent years.

"It used to be that immigrants that were poor got stuck in impoverished enclaves - it was sort of a dead end.

"But we are talking about skilled often highly educated affluent immigrants. So the dynamic is different."

Mr Spoonley says ethnic precincts are not in themselves bad.

"What they do, is they bring Auckland into the 21st century, because dynamic city economies are almost always ethnically diverse, with strong ethnic precincts. It is part of what a modern city is," he says.

"So the ethnic precincts ... I don't think are a problem."

Mr Spoonley says the issue is more about how communities interact with each other.

"We've just done some surveys in terms of these ethnic precincts and there is quite a high number of non-Asians who shop in Asian businesses these days. So that's good.

"The other thing that I think is really important is we are talking about first generation [immigrants]. The second generation Asian communities are going to very different from the first.

"When you shop along Dominion Rd you are looking at business owners that are first generation."

Mr Spoonley acknowledged some do feel an influx of immigrants is a threat to the New Zealand national identity.

"My question [to them] is tell me what that identity is and then we've got an answer," he says.

"Secondly I don't think we are as aggressively nationalistic as a lot of other countries. It is not like we are confident in knowing who we are and expect others to be like us. We aren't."

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