MASSEY University's Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley shows a photograph of his 1969 senior class at Hastings Boys High School.
The immigration and social-cohesion expert says of the students, there are 24 pakeha and one Maori. Hawke's Bay, like the rest of New Zealand, was not diverse.
"There was an old Chinese community here, but it wasn't the size it is now," he said.
Up until 1986 immigration policy gave preference to specific countries over individual skills. New Zealand had 33 laws that kept out non-Europeans.
"Even if you had arrived in New Zealand as Chinese in the 1860s and your children and grandchildren were born here, none could become New Zealand citizens. The first that Asians could become New Zealand citizens was in 1951. So in terms of our welcome to Asians it is not really one we can be proud of.
"The Labour Government in the 1990s did something which I don't think they quite understood. They changed and adopted an Australian and Canadian policy that said if you had skills that we needed you could come to New Zealand. It didn't really work until after 2000, but after 2000 it kicked in."
He said he was "deeply disturbed" some saw problems with immigration instead of opportunity.
"But we are not going to stop it - India and China have the two biggest talent pools in the world and we are rightly recruiting from them."
Professor Spoonley still owns property in Hawke's Bay and considers returning "but given my qualifications there aren't many jobs that would be available for me here".
"One of the difficulties for Hawke's Bay is that it lacks depth of the labour market - once you get a certain level of qualification and experience then it becomes quite difficult to find jobs here."
He said Hawke's Bay had some ingredients for economic growth and diversity but lacked international connections and skills.
While employers were targeting immigrants the region should be thinking bigger - marketing Hawke's Bay to attract businesses - because the mechanisms for distributing migrants throughout the country were poor.
"Regions need to develop their own migrant recruitment strategies. Go directly to business owners and migrant communities, explain why you would come to Hawke's Bay and what the advantages are. At the moment it tends to be employers who recruit immigrants offshore and I think there is a space for regions to get their own strategy together.
"If you look at the regions of New Zealand they are beginning to flat line. If the Government isn't going to do anything more to attract migrants to the regions then perhaps the regions themselves should make a greater effort."
He said the number one reason migrants chose New Zealand was lifestyle.
"Hawke's Bay has lifestyle in abundance. It is very well placed to offer something they would find attractive."
Hawke's Bay needed jobs, innovation, diversity and connections - all available through immigration.
He points to Napier Pine as a good example. The Indonesian directors have been in business for 17 years and employ 50 people.
It has taken over operations at Waipawa Timbers in Hastings, where it is building a new sawmill beside the existing one to help meet the coming sawmill demand - log harvesting is set to double in the coming decade as forests mature.
Its first export market was Indonesia, which at the time critics said was a coals-to-Newcastle scenario. They still export to Indonesia but also the United States, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Europe.
"Immigrants bring skills to Hawke's Bay but also international connections, so immediately you have an opportunity to grow your international export market through business owners who have those connections.
"They speak the language, they know the culture and have the connections. They are a ready-made package."
New immigrants needed to interact with other members of their community "so one of the next things you can do is to have people locally who can speak their language of whatever micro-group you are wanting to bring to a region, so you make them feel safe and welcome".
Safety was the second main reason immigrants came to New Zealand and the third was education.
"Many parents come here so their children can be educated in English.
"You wouldn't come to New Zealand to make a lot of money."
New Zealand's immigration policy was more successful than Australia and Canada's, he said.
"Of the three countries New Zealand is the only one that meets and exceeds its target. It is partly because we are small but I think it is really about the quality of the life you can get here."
The high numbers have changed the face of New Zealand, especially Auckland.
"Of the top 10 surnames in Auckland in 2014 only one of them was from Britain. Smith comes in at number five and the first four surnames are all Chinese."
Below Smith the names were Chinese or Indian.
A good place to see the nation's new demography was in schools.
"I often go to school prizegivings, mostly in Auckland but I am happy to do Hawke's Bay. I did Pinehurst, a private school not very far from the Massey University Albany campus. Every single academic award that night went to an Asian student.
"Most of the sports awards did not, except for the major prize because they had Lydia Ko."
New Zealand was undergoing a transformational demographic shift "that is changing who we are as a country".
"In Auckland 23 per cent of residents are now Asian. If you go back two decades it would have been 4 per cent. New Zealanders are now 12 per cent Asian, so we are beginning to change who we connect with in many ways.
"In the previous 12 months 101,000 people arrived in New Zealand as permanent residents. We have never ever had over 100,000 people arrive on a 12-month period ever before in our colonial history.
"The two largest groups are arriving from China and from India, then the Brits and fourth are Filipinos. Almost half the residents arriving in that 12-month period will be Koreans, Filipinos, Chinese and Indian, so our connections with Asia are beginning to take on a very different dimension.
"My children will benefit from the new migration - the new New Zealand is actually about our connections with Asia."
He said New Zealand's journey towards bi-culturalism was a reason multi-culturalism was successful.
"We don't require, as the Australians do, new arrivals to sit an examination about their new country. We don't require new arrivals to become citizens - we are the only country in the world where permanent residents can vote without becoming citizens.
"We don't require you to salute a flag very often but we do require you to sing the national anthem - fantastic.
"In the 1970s and 1980s we had a debate about what it meant to be tangata whenua in this country and we opened up new spaces to welcome people who are not like me. That is a journey which is not complete but I think we have extended it to new immigrant communities."
He said the 2020s would be an important time because the Asian population would be greater than Maori. There would be a "recalibration" but bi-culturalism would not be replaced.
Professor Spoonley was keynote speaker at the Asians in the Bay Awards on Tuesday where he said he was part of an Auckland economic leadership team that had tried for three years to get a similar set of awards "and have failed miserably".
The awards, in their third year, recognise the contribution of the Asian community to the economic development of Hawke's Bay. They also celebrate the efforts of organisations to promote their own culture.
The Best Asian Business award went to MP Foods. The Hastings company is a retail and wholesale trader, distributing to several North Island cities from their Queen St West base in Hastings. The owners also operate Bollywood Indian Restaurant in Heretaunga St East.
Winner of the Best Asian Restaurant award was Thai Chef's Restaurant in Napier's Onekawa because of its "invention and innovation in the fusion of food styles". The Best Asian Practising Professional award was shared between Dr Kamal Karl and Dr Umesh Pandey.
Awards judge and former Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Murray Douglas said the awards were "a real eye opener".
He said he always knew the contribution from the Asian community was large but had not appreciated the region's reliance on the growing Asian community.
"There are some extraordinary people out there, filling huge gaps in the infrastructure of Hawke's Bay," he said.
"Some are New Zealand Asians but some have had to cross a language barrier and retrain for the New Zealand system."
Professor Spoonley said the awards played an important part in widening awareness of the positive contribution new migrants were making.
"So let us continue that journey and let us continue to acknowledge and celebrate and welcome immigrant communities."