Young people ignore racial differences

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A generational shift may be taking place in New Zealand's racial landscape.

Retired Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says despite headlines about anti-Muslim rants and instances of discrimination, he is upbeat about a change in Kiwi attitudes.

He says even the Treaty settlement process is "almost routine" now compared with when it started.

"People tend now to say: 'I don't have a problem with settling historical grievances," Mr de Bres says.

A demographic change, combined with the growth of the Maori economy and the positive role iwi are taking in areas such as Taranaki and Waikato, along with a change in the school curriculum, have all made a difference, he says.

A recent Six Councils Quality of Life report found about half of surveyed residents felt New Zealand was becoming home for an increasing number of cultures and ethnicities, which made their area a better place to live.

The most common reason cited for greater cultural diversity having a positive impact was that people from other countries made their city more vibrant and brought more interesting food and restaurants to the community.

Respondents who said cultural diversity had a negative effect felt people from other countries and cultures did not integrate into New Zealand society.

However, Mr de Bres says there is more connection among cultures in New Zealand than in many other countries.

"There's a huge amount of inter-marriage, there's a huge amount of interaction in sport, in culture, at work and so on," he says.

Ethnic communities were not separated geographically and many Kiwis had Maori relatives, as a result of inter-race relationships and marriages.

Statistics NZ estimates predict our Maori, Asian, and Pacific populations will continue to grow. Asian populations are projected to increase the fastest at 3.4 per cent a year, followed by Pacific (2.4 per cent), Maori (1.3 per cent) and European (0.4 per cent).

Mr de Bres says New Zealand generally welcomes migrants and if steps are taken to address prejudice and inequality, he believes it is only "a matter of time" until racism here is stamped out.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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