Perhaps no commercial premises in Northland epitomises the microcosm of Northland's changing ethnic diversity more than the Onerahi Shopping Centre.
Four businesses run by Indians, two by Koreans, twoby Chinese, a Cambodian family bakery, and Kiwis are serving a population spread over a vast swathe of area all the way to Pataua.
The multi-ethnic composition comes as no surprise, given the Census 2018 results that show Asians and Pacific Islanders are the largest ethnic groups to have moved to Northland since 2013.
The number of Asians went up a staggering 79 per cent— from 3927 to 7038— between 2013 and 2018 while the percentage increase for Pacific Islanders was 69 per cent. Their numbers rose from 3927 to 4461 over the same period.
Whangārei saw the biggest increase in both ethnic groups with 8022, followed by 5049 in the Far North, and 1509 in Kaipara.
According to Census figures, Northland is the fastest-growing region in the country and had a population of 179,076 at the end of last year.
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Sunny Singh opened the Feast Indian Restaurant in the old Post Shop building nearly four years ago and doesn't regret making the move.
"Business has been steady. Most of my clients are Europeans, including those that have moved from Auckland as the city became more expensive, so more population means services need to grow as well.
"Growth in population really took off around 2014 or 2015 and you can notice it just with the amount of traffic movement and the demand for services which is a good thing because it creates jobs and businesses grow," he said.
Singh said he met people who sold their million-dollar houses in Auckland and bought lifestyle properties in places like Whangārei Heads for less than that amount.
He worked in Indian restaurants in central Whangārei before deciding to venture on his own.
"I thought since there are more ethnic restaurants in town, I'd try one in a different area and was confident it would work and I think the demand for ethnic cuisine will be there, more so with a rising population," Singh said.
Jeong Shim runs the Happy Save Store and loves interacting with the locals who she says are "very friendly".
She moved to Whangārei and worked briefly as a chef after studying culinary arts in Auckland.
The previous shop owner, also a Korean, was selling up and she pounced on the opportunity three years ago.
"I see new people, especially young mums, from time to time apart from my regular customers who are mostly senior citizens and they've lived here for a long time.
"They are very friendly compared to those you meet in town. Business will be better the more people settle here," she said.
Beside her shop is the Onerahi Bakery and Cafe which is run by Cambodian Chaatrea Tat who moved up less than two years ago after working in similar businesses in Whakatane and New Plymouth.
He was keen to open his own bakery and took up an offer to buy the business from the former owner, a friend.
Tat said business was "okay" and that locals have been friendly to him in the short time he had been there.
Unichem Pharmacy owner Francis Hill said the different businesses in Onerahi catered well for a great community.
"We've experienced new people, especially those that have moved up from Auckland. I think we've got quite a diverse population in town which is nice to have.
"We get to benefit from a variety of food and to experience things from a different perspective with our multi-ethnic community. People are nice."
Manager of the Whangārei Migrant Centre Jessie Manney said the number of migrants seeking help with accessing various services in the community increased by more than 500 per cent in just three years.
The majority seeking help, she said, had been Asians and most come for language classes and to socialise.
Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stephen Smith said Whangārei was starting to have a metropolitan feel with migrants who were well educated and had serious qualities in business fields.
"Some have become pillars of society with the provision of products and services that are of high quality and they are very active. Just their sheer energy," he said.
Smith said he had travelled to and lived in 54 countries throughout the world and knew the importance of having a multicultural society.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said migrants were welcome as they brought value to the district's economic and social fabric.
"They are often entrepreneurs who bring with them important skill sets and life experience, and who commit wholeheartedly to their communities, adding vibrancy and diversity to our district.
"I believe the migrant community brings a wonderful multicultural flavour to our district, and I am delighted to see these figures in our latest Census."
The number of Middle Eastern, Latin American and Africans stood at 897— an increase from 552 in 2013.
Europeans remain the biggest ethnic group in Northland, totalling 130,971, followed by Maori at 64,461.
More than 27,000 people moved to Northland in the five years to the end of 2018.