Report details complex mix of city’s ethnic makeup using 2013 Census and growing ‘ethnoscapes’ where migrant clusters have influenced food, language and culture.

More migrants from Asia are using the student and worker migration policy as a path to secure permanent residence, a report has found.

Asian Auckland: The multiple meanings of diversity is released today by the Asia New Zealand Foundation as part of a series drawing on the 2013 Census data.

It examines settlement patterns of Asian immigrants in Auckland, details history and trends of Asian migration and explores the influence of Asian communities on the city's food culture, cultural festivals, the media and the arts.

The report covers all people of Asian ethnicity in Auckland, not just recent migrants.

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The research says student and worker migration have created more diverse Asian populations in New Zealand in terms of age and sex composition, education types and skills.

Author Wardlow Friesen, senior lecturer in geography at the University of Auckland, said changes in immigration policy since the 1990s had resulted in more migrants entering as international students or on work visas.

"It has also provided a path to permanent residence that was not available earlier," Friesen said.

"The notable increases in Filipino and Indian migrant numbers can be partly attributed to these changes."

Between 2006 and 2013, the Filipino population grew by 144 per cent to 37,229 and the Indian population by 55 per cent to 67,176.

The number of permanent residents from the two largest Asian source countries, China and India, fluctuated around an average of 6000 and 4000 a year respectively.

The median age of Auckland's Asian population is lower than that of the total population.

Dr Friesen said at any one time, the Asian population comprised a mix of New Zealand-born, overseas-born, citizens, permanent residents, temporary workers, students and tourists.

"All ... bringing with them a diverse range of demographic characteristics, skills and expectations," he said.

"This complexity is most apparent in Auckland, where migrant settlement patterns illustrate other aspects of increasing diversification and show there is no singular 'Asian migrant'."

At the time of the census, more than one in five, or 21 per cent, were New Zealand-born.

Dr Friesen said a significant number of Asians in Auckland, especially of Chinese and Indian descent, were not migrants and had characteristics, identities and expectations that were different from migrant populations.

Sandeep Sharma is the manager of Bawarchi Restaurant on Sandringham road. Photo / Nick Reed
Sandeep Sharma is the manager of Bawarchi Restaurant on Sandringham road. Photo / Nick Reed

In the report he said Asian migration would continue to be important in the medium term because of declining birth rates combined with the ageing population and political support for immigration.

"The largest political parties, National, Labour and the Greens, support ongoing immigration with some variations in their targets relating to migrant numbers and characteristics," Dr Friesen said.

"The obvious exception to this consensus is New Zealand First, but even this party states that it is not 'anti-migrant'."

The report provides insights into Asian "ethnoscapes", which include tangible structures such as people, shops and houses and less tangible aspects like language and religion.

It notes the diversification of food outlets, festivals and Asian diasporic art forms were "generally positively received" by New Zealanders of all ethnicities.

The report also examines how migrants have changed residential neighbourhoods and suburbs.

In Dannemora and Botany Downs, where more than half of the 47,000 population are Asian, homes are built with distinctive features.

"Houses commonly feature large pillared entryways, said to be an element of feng shui, and occupy large proportions of the sections on which they sit."

In Sandringham, a combination of a greater Indian population and ongoing gentrification resulted in the establishment of a distinctive "Indian food neighbourhood".

Sandringham road is full of a variety of Asian ethnic food stores. Photo / Nick Reed
Sandringham road is full of a variety of Asian ethnic food stores. Photo / Nick Reed

"South Asian cuisines represented in this small cluster of popular restaurants and cafes include Gujarati, Mughlai, Punjabi, South Indian, Indo-Fijian and Sri Lankan," the report said.

"Some of the restaurants are halal, and some explicitly 'alcohol-free'."

Azeem Mohammed, 35, owner of Bawarchi Restaurant on Sandringham Rd, said his Islamic religion considered alcohol "haram" or sinful.

"I know that for some Kiwis alcohol and wine is very important when they go out to have dinner," Mr Azeem said.

"But we are Muslims, and I tell my customers to respect that we are alcohol-free if they want to eat here."

Dominion Rd was identified as perhaps the most prominent ethnoscape in Auckland - an "elongated Chinatown" stretching from Mt Eden to Mt Roskill, with Asian shops and restaurants densely clustered along several stretches.

Asians made up 72.1 per cent of the Mission Heights population and more than six in 10 at Pinehill, Ormiston and Baverstock Oaks.

The highest concentration of Chinese is found at Pinehill on the North Shore and of Indians at Hillsborough West. Northcross and Forrest Hill have the most Koreans and Glenfield is where you will most likely find a Filipino.

Dr Friesen said the ethnic clustering was largely voluntarily and not driven by forces of discrimination and exclusion.

"Certainly Asian migrants' choice of residential neighbourhoods in Auckland is partly determined by income and housing affordability, but it appears that there is a significant element of choice within these constraints," he said.

The foundation's research director, Andrew Butcher, said Auckland had become known as one of the world's super-diverse cities.

"This report shows that this diversity is true not only of Auckland, but of the city's Asian population itself," Dr Butcher said.

Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley said this diversity was a defining characteristic of Auckland.

"It defines the city and is a key defining characteristic compared to any other New Zealand city, but also in relation to many other Pacific rim cities like Sydney and Los Angeles," Professor Spoonley said.


Readers on mobile can see the interactive maps below.
Percentage of Asian population in Auckland

Please note that the scales for the main map and the breakdown one are different.
Breakdown for four main populations
Select the country from the menu on the upper right corner to see different maps.

Chef says work-visa route best

Daniel Lee, 44, came to New Zealand from South Korea on a work visa and has been working as a Japanese chef for more than two years.

Daniel and Christina Lee run a restaurant business in Takapuna. Photo / Nick Reed
Daniel and Christina Lee run a restaurant business in Takapuna. Photo / Nick Reed

After he got his permanent resident visa last year, Mr Lee quit his job and started his own restaurant - Sushi House and Donburi - in Takapuna.

Today, he is running the business with his wife, Christina, 40, and the couple are looking to buy their first New Zealand home.

"My wife came before me five years ago on a guardianship visa to accompany my son, who was then in primary school," he said. "But we just fell in love with New Zealand and decided to make this our home, so I found myself a job and got a work visa."

Mr Lee said he had explored "all options" but found the work visa the "most straightforward" means towards getting him and his family a ticket to stay in the country permanently.

The couple have a 14-year-old son at Takapuna Grammar School in Belmont.

The Asian Auckland report said immigration policy changes resulted in many more work migrants coming, and many had used it as a pathway to residency. It said in the seven years since the 2006 Census, work permits had become an "increasingly important element" in the immigration system.

"The number of work migrants entering the country are increasing steadily and they are coming from a diversifying range of countries, including many in Asia," the report said.

"Most countries of Asia have supplied work migrants in recent years, with an annual average of about 65,000 qualifying per year."

Between July 2008 and June 2013, India was the largest source of short- to medium-term work migrants, with about 18,100 per year.

This was followed by China (16,027), the Philippines (8225), South Korea (5722), Japan (4659), Malaysia (3700), Thailand (2899), Indonesia (1561), Taiwan (1273) and Sri Lanka (1173).

The Immigration Act 1987 replaced earlier immigration policy that was based on "preferred country of origin".

The new act prioritised migrants' particular characteristics such as age, educational level, work experience and the ability to bring capital investment.

A points system implemented in 1991 quantified these characteristics.

Malaysian couple's residency dream inching closer to reality

Malaysian couple Danny Ng, 45, and wife Jamie, 35, fell in love with New Zealand when they came here for a holiday in 2010.

"The scenery was so beautiful and we love the weather, and thought well, we could definitely live here," said Mrs Ng. "We also loved the fact that New Zealand had a very low crime rate."

Mrs Ng, a former logistic purchasing executive, could not get a job because she claimed employers here would not recognise her experience.

An education agent she met suggested that an easy way to secure residency was by signing up as an international student. Mrs Ng signed up for a health care diploma course and got a job offer as a community support worker after she graduated. However, her application hit a road block after Immigration New Zealand deemed her qualification and work as not meeting the required standard.

Since then, Mr Ng had been granted a work visa under the skilled migrant category as a furniture finisher, and the couple have re-applied for residency.

New Zealand had promoted itself as a destination for international students since the 1990s.

Between 2006 and 2013, an annual average of 56,000 came from Asian countries.

China has consistently been the largest source of international students, and the other largest Asian sources in recent years were South Korea, Japan and India.

Auckland was the main centre of international education, with 60 per cent of all international students based here.

The report said Asian migrants came to New Zealand for a variety of reasons.

"Although the majority are admitted on the basis of economic criteria, other motives often relate to perceptions that NZ has a 'clean and green' environment, a good education system, a vigorous democracy and a desirable lifestyle," it said.

"Further, New Zealand has a relatively relaxed approach to settlement, so permanent residents have nearly all the rights of citizens, including the right to vote and can generally hold dual or multiple citizenship."
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