Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Most immigrants feel they belong in NZ

Within a decade, most immigrants into this country say they feel like they belong in NZ. File photo / Brett Phibbs
Within a decade, most immigrants into this country say they feel like they belong in NZ. File photo / Brett Phibbs

The majority of migrants to New Zealand strongly feel that they belong here, and long-term migrants are even more likely than New Zealand-born residents to vote, according to new Statistics New Zealand research.

Data tables from the New Zealand General Social Survey show 86 per cent of migrants (407,000 people) who had been in New Zealand for more than 12 years said they belonged, either "strongly" or "very strongly", to New Zealand.

Of people who had been in the country 12 years or less, 64 per cent (288,000 people) said the same thing.

This compared with 95 per cent of New Zealand-born people with New Zealand-born parents (1.66 million people), and 93 per cent of New Zealand-born people with at least one overseas-born parent (611,000 people), who said they belonged strongly or very strongly to the country.

The survey data also showed that the proportion of long-term migrants who voted during the 2008 general election was higher than that of any other group, including New Zealand-born people.

"How strongly a person feels connected to the country can affect their participation in society, such as whether they vote," New Zealand General Social Survey manager Philip Walker said.

Bevan Chuang, who moved here from Hong Kong 17 years ago when she was 15, said New Zealand was very much her home.

In her experience, migrants often described the first 12 months in New Zealand as the "honeymoon period", which could be followed by feelings of homesickness and isolation.

"They might have a period afterwards where they think it's very hard because they face discrimination or still can't find a job and things like that other things."

She believed it took six to seven years for migrants to come to see New Zealand as their home.

"A lot of migrants go back to their country of birth every couple of years and after living in New Zealand for six or seven years, suddenly they get off the plane back here and think 'it's so great to be back'. That makes you feel like it's your home."

Ms Chuang, who sits on the Auckland Council Ethnic People's Advisory Panel, said she still faced discrimination because of her ethnicity, but this did not make her feel like less of a New Zealander.

"Someone commented not so long ago that I would always be Chinese and would never be a Kiwi, but I think even though some people think like that, the majority of New Zealanders do accept new migrants.

"They might not understand everything, but I feel comfortable among my New Zealand friends because they're willing to learn about and treasure my culture. I feel that I'm welcome here even though I might face discrimination. I feel like this is more my home than Hong Kong."

- APNZ

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