White Europeans could lose majority status in Auckland in the next few years as the combined population of Asians, Pacific Islanders and Maori increases, Statistics New Zealand figures indicate.
While the city's population was 76 per cent white European in 1976, projections show it will be 51 per cent in 2016, with further reductions in later years.
The forecast comes as the Herald begins a five-part series on ethnic diversity in Auckland, where about 40 per cent of the inhabitants were born overseas.
Nearly 70 per cent of Aucklanders in a Herald street poll said they were comfortable with the changing face of the city.
Massey University sociology professor Paul Spoonley, who made the Auckland population projection based on Statistics NZ figures, said it was a matter of "when" rather than "if" minority communities combined would outnumber white Europeans in Auckland.
The high rate of permanent outward migration of New Zealand citizens and the record exodus to Australia would hasten this because most of those who left were European or Maori, he said.
The social shift was also aided by the Immigration Act 1987, which radically changed migrant entry to New Zealand. Requirements were based on individual characteristics, skills and money rather than preferred source countries.
Between 1986 and 2006, the numbers born in Asia and now resident in New Zealand increased by 661 per cent, with the Chinese (899.4 per cent) and Indians (841.6 per cent) dominating growth.
Over that time the number of overseas-born Pacific people also doubled, and migrants from other countries, such as Africa, also increased.
Professor Spoonley said older age groups might struggle to come to grips with this "huge change".
Auckland Chinese Community Centre chairman Arthur Loo, a local-born Chinese, counts himself among those who would be "uncomfortable" if there were more Asians, Pacific and Maori than Pakeha in Auckland.
"I wouldn't want Pakeha to be the minority. I think we as New Zealanders have got to acknowledge what the founding peoples of New Zealand were, and it's Maori and people from the United Kingdom," Mr Loo said.
He said Auckland should remain a city that kept New Zealand's "Maori-European heritage".
"I mean all societies evolve, but I certainly won't want to see the Anglo-Saxon or the English culture subjugated in any way because they, in a large part, have made what is New Zealand and that's why we're here," Mr Loo said.
"They were responsible for building New Zealand to what it is today, and other people come and we take advantage of that."By Lincoln Tan Email Lincoln