Our week-long inquiry into our changing national identity concludes with a look at the future through the eyes of our youngest citizens.

Sophie McMillan's lunchbox is a bit like what she thinks about multiculturalism - it's good for you.

The bubbly 10-year-old from Belmont Primary has a taste for Asian food, a bilingual dad and lots of friends whose families weren't born here.

"It's nice to have them around in class as they're really nice people. My dad can speak Chinese and he tried to teach me but I can't memorise any."

For 78 per cent of the 22 under 20s that the Herald spoke to for this series, living and learning about different cultures and languages is viewed as an ordinary and good part of their lives.


Statistics NZ says nearly 42 per cent of the under-20 population are non-European or a mix of European and other ethnicities.

Children are also being exposed to different cultures in their homes as their family members travel, fall in love and bring up children here.

No young person says ethnic diversity is a solely bad thing.

Taralee Harvey-Brown, 10, of Rotorua says: "There's been quite a few Japanese and stuff coming over, it's okay if we don't go over the top, because we are only a small country."

What of those born overseas but who call this country home?

Charlotte Binks, 18, who was born in England but moved to Christchurch when she was 10, identifies herself as proudly British but keeps surprising herself by claiming New Zealand success on the international stage as her own. "I guess the idea [of being a Kiwi] has kind of grown on me."

The last word on diversity goes to Tatiana Tango, 10, who talks about a past South African teacher who she thought was cool even though his pupils were naughty. "It makes no difference to me because I take the personality of the person in front of me."

The question
Who are we?
What does it mean to be a New Zealander in today's interconnected world?

The context
The "typical" New Zealander who will read the new compact Herald is much harder to pin down now that we are more likely than ever either to have come here from overseas or to have been born here and gone.

The methods
A DigiPoll survey of 750 New Zealanders plus in-depth interviews with 91 people in New Zealand and 16 NZ-born people in Australia, including similar numbers in five 20-year age bands. The NZ interviews were arranged with the help of primary schools spanning the decile range in north and west Auckland, Cambridge, Rotorua and Christchurch. In addition historians at the online encyclopedia Te Ara selected 30 key events that helped shape our identity over the past 100 years.

The team
Greg Ansley, Kurt Bayer, Simon Collins, Yvonne Tahana, Lincoln Tan, Vaimoana Tapaleao.

The series
Monday: Pioneer stock - aged 80-plus
Tuesday: War babies - aged 60-79
Wednesday: Opening up - aged 40-59
Thursday: Children of Rogernomics - aged 20-39
Today: Sport unites the nation - aged under 20.

Key events 1992-2012
Shortland Street begins. Consistently one of New Zealand's highest rating shows, New Zealand's own soap has reflected the nation's culture and society for 20 years.
MMP made politics more representative of the diverse society New Zealand has become and gave Maori more political power and representation than they had possessed for a century and a half.
First woman Prime Minister. With Jenny Shipley becoming the first woman Prime Minister followed the next year by Helen Clark becoming the first popularly elected PM, the days of New Zealand as an exclusively man's country were well and truly over.
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King wins 11 Oscars. New Zealand becomes identified internationally with beautiful landscapes and cultural creativity.
Sione's Wedding, bro'Town (3rd series), and census shows 60 per cent of Pacific people born in New Zealand: These events highlighted the Pacific community's contribution to the culture and identity of the country.
Christchurch earthquakes: As in the 1931 Hawkes Bay quake we learnt once again that we live in the 'shaky isles', and that in an emergency we respond generously to other New Zealanders in distress.

Source: 30 key events 1912-2012 selected by Dr Jock Phillips and his team at the online encyclopedia Te Ara. More online at: http://blog.teara.govt.nz
Snapshot: New Zealanders aged under 20
* European 58.1%
* Maori 11%
* European-Maori 9.5%
* Asian 8.5%
* Pacific 7.4%
* Other/mixtures 3.2%
* European-Pacific 2.1%

Where we are:
* New Zealand 91.8%
* Australia 6.6%
* Rest of world 1.6%
Source: Statistics NZ