Sir Bob Jones

Commentary on issues of the day from the property tycoon, author and former politician

Bob Jones: Migrants good for NZ - the more the merrier

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Auckland's vigour and growth are largely attributable to its being a migrant destination. Photo / Richard Robinson
Auckland's vigour and growth are largely attributable to its being a migrant destination. Photo / Richard Robinson

A1990s Australian government survey revealed their highest-income nationality group, including Australians, were New Zealanders. That confirmed the assertion that we're losing our best and brightest, although whether it's still true is questionable. Much of our current outflow there comprises the labouring classes, pursuing high wages in arduous backblock mining towns.

Does it matter? In my view, if the departees feel Australia offers a better life then they certainly should go. Their duty is to themselves to fulfil their potential as they see it. But, offsetting the outflow, we're exchanging them for fresh blood, which is a fantastic trade-off.

There's an old boxing aphorism which speaks for itself, namely a hungry fighter is a good fighter. Make no mistake, those thousands of Asians - mainly Indians and Chinese, but also large numbers of Thais, Koreans, Malays and Filipinos - pouring into New Zealand are very hungry fighters indeed.

The evidence confronts us daily.

Whether it's the amazing 15-year-old Korean-born Lydia Ko or the annual secondary schools top scholars' photographs published in newspapers which are dominated by Asian kids, or the corner shops with their Indian families keeping them open 19 hours a day, seven days a week, or so many of the new CBD retail business start-ups being Chinese, the energy of these migrants amounts to a huge boost for New Zealand.

Their behaviour is patterned. The first generation work their butts off, mostly self-employed, albeit often in menial activities. At home they drive their kids to study hard, aiming for conventional higher-income professions such as medicine and accounting.

I have boundless admiration for the courage of Asian migrants, setting out to an alien land, language and culture, so that their children will have a better life. My company provides university scholarships for humanities students (the bogus data-collecting sociology and such like "subjects" excluded). Years ago I told Auckland University I wanted the scholarships confined to migrants' children. That proved a joke for, as I said, they stick to the straight and narrow of accounting, medicine etc and thus we had no applicants. Henceforth, we'll cover these for them anyway, knowing that their third generation will branch out on their own initiative from the orthodox professions.

Two years ago, I was guest speaker at the Katherine Mansfield Society's annual prize-giving for the capital's 30 or so college essay contest winners, this staged in Mansfield's childhood home in Wellington, now a museum.

Afterwards, chatting to the winners, I met a pretty Shanghai-born girl. She wore the uniform of a private girls' school through which I've put waves of daughters and others over the decades, and thus know the cost. She said her dad was a taxi driver, which said it all. Probably he's driving 60 hours a week to eke out a living, of which a third or more is going on school fees. It's a common story.

Never before in history has there been as much mass migration as today. If, in many cases, they're fleeing war-torn countries, the evidence is clear that host nations are ultimately enhanced by the contribution of different cultures, despite occasional teething problems. But most are economic migrants and we should welcome them to our welfare-sated nation. They bring with them an independent mentality and self-respect, sadly non-existent with a large section of our population.

The American expression of the melting pot is undoubtedly an important factor in that nation's success. We should copy it and woo migrants from non-traditional sources. Aside from the very welcome Asians, we're now getting heaps of Argentinians and Middle Easterners. We should also exploit Europe's woes and set up immigration offices in Greece, Spain and Italy.

In the early 1950s, after the devastating Netherlands flood plus Indonesian independence, thousands of Dutch migrated here. They introduced coffee-shops - now so much part of our lives. So, too, ornate bricklaying and stonework. Before their arrival we were using only red bricks.

The descendants of the 19th-century Dalmatian gum diggers have had a hugely positive impact on New Zealand. They started our first wineries, for example, and today their Slavonic names are common-place in sport, commerce, politics and other aspects of public life.

Perhaps best of all is inter-marriage. Once only Maori spouses softened our ancestors' coarse Anglo-Saxon/Celtic features. Now it's open slather and it's indisputable that the outcome is overwhelmingly aesthetically better. Racial intermarriage is now a world-wide phenomenon, which ultimately may mean no natural blondes left.

Auckland's vigour and growth are largely attributable to its being a migrant destination, whether from Dunedin, Damascus or Dalmatia; hungry fighters all.

Our history has always been one of migration, we having no indigenous people. Australian cities' vibrancy is attributable to post-war mass migration from non-traditional sources, and we should emulate their winning experience.


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- NZ Herald

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