The evolving face of NZ will be felt most in Auckland, writes Lincoln Tan in the first of a six-part Herald series on the challenges ahead.

The series


Changing faces





Family life






NZ's future.


In just over 20 years, the combined Asian, Pacific and Maori population in Auckland is forecast to outnumber Europeans and others.

According to Statistics New Zealand predictions, nearly a third of the city's population in 2038 will be Asian - up from the current one in five.

With more than 200 ethnic groups calling Auckland home, the city has already been labelled by academics a "superdiverse" city.

A six-day series in the Herald, starting today, explores some of the challenges that comes with superdiversity and how to meet them.

Experts say some in business and government are not prepared for this diversity arising from changes to immigration policy since 1987.

A new report, The Superdiversity Stocktake, by Mai Chen, chairwoman of the Superdiversity Centre of Law, Policy and Business, explores the implications for business, government and New Zealand.


Ms Chen says in her report she does not believe the status quo is sustainable and investment is needed to harness our changing population.

The report addresses issues of particular relevance to the Asian population - the biggest non-indigenous minority group - and Asian migration.

Its predominant focus is on the legal, public policy and business challenges of superdiversity.

"So all New Zealanders can read it and assess for themselves what is happening to their country and what we need to do to ensure it remains economically strong and racially harmonious," said Ms Chen. "And to ask how we want this country to be and to help shape our own future."

Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley said the acceleration of diverse migration flows, especially since 2000, had changed the demography of New Zealand.

"By far, the impact is really an Auckland story," Professor Spoonley, an immigration specialist, said. "With 40 per cent of Aucklanders born overseas, it is right at the top of superdiverse cities."


However, he said the response and adjustment from business, government and core institutions to diversity had been a mixed bag.

"I would say there are a range of reactions, and the NZ Police, for example, are working hard to understand diversity in what they do," said Professor Spoonley. "Others are struggling to understand the implications quite apart from what they should be doing."

Professor Spoonley said that in 2038, New Zealand would be "a very different country" and the Asian population will be as large if not larger than the Maori population nationally.

Spoonley said overall Auckland was doing well, given the rapidity with which the city has changed.

"It relies upon immigrants who are skilled and well-educated to play a key role, which they do," he said.

"But look at Vancouver and the decision made in 1989 to include a consideration of diversity in everything the city government does.


"Or how Toronto approaches diversity, and there is a significant gap between these cities which celebrate and very proactively include diversity in all sorts of policies, from the obvious such as tourism and events to the less obvious like planning and community participation."

He said although the general population are accepting of diversity, there are concerns such as the tendency for migrant communities to speak their own languages.

Asia New Zealand Foundation surveys had found attitudes towards Asians and Asian immigrants had steadily improved since 1987.

However, AUT University Professor of Diversity Edwina Pio said many in New Zealand were not happy with immigration policy and the change in demography.

"There is fear, and feelings of being overwhelmed," she said. "If as a country, we choose to take in immigrants and refugees, we must ... prepare the general existing population to welcome them."

All of New Zealand's 16 regions and nearly all 67 territorial areas are projected to have increasing ethnic diversity over the next two decades.


Ethnic population projections indicate increasing Maori, Asian and Pacific populations in nearly all regions between now and 2038.

Professor Pio envisioned New Zealand in 2038 as a "wonderful mosaic of diversity".

"[People] are likely to be browner, their tastes eclectic and they will enjoy music and food that is like a Zen haiku, a Sufi poem, an Indian dance, a British fairness and a Chinese character of harmony."


When Malaysian born Ming Tiang first moved to Auckland in January 1976, he felt like an "alien" who has just landed on earth.

"I didn't find anything familiar, there was just one Chinese takeaway 'Wan Loy' and it was hard to find anyone who looked like me," said Mr Tiang, now 61, an ethnic Chinese.

"Walking down Queen St, I'm always thrilled to see another Chinese and we'll always say hello and exchange contacts."


At the time, Wah Lee was the only store selling Asian supplies such as rice and soya sauce, and Malaysian ingredients were "impossible to find", Mr Tiang said.

Four decades later, Auckland has been transformed - with about 40 per cent of its population born overseas and one in four identifying with an Asian ethnicity - it is one of the most super diverse cities internationally.

The 2013 Census figures also recorded more than 200 different ethnic groups living in New Zealand's largest city, and it will only become more diverse.

According to Statistics New Zealand ethnic population projections, one in three people will be Asian and one in five Pasifika in 2038.

The city's "European or other" population share is projected to drop from about six in 10 today to 47 per cent over the same period.

The Asian population is projected to become the largest group in Whau, Puketapapa and Howick local board areas.



Liz Ngan, a third generation Chinese-New Zealander speaks fluent English, she has still been the victim of racist insults.

Lower Hutt born-and-bred, Ms Ngan was always taught to "turn the other cheek".
This all changed when as an adult, a man in the middle of Wellington city told her to "go back to where you belong".

He then grabbed a roofing iron from a nearby site and swung it at her. "I was absolutely horrified. I'm an adult and people are still doing this," she said.

Wellington is becoming an increasingly diverse city, with one in five Wellingtonians expected to be Asian by 2038. But things were different 100 years ago.

Anti-Chinese laws were passed, including the introduction of a poll tax on immigrants.
Ms Ngan

grew up only speaking English but decided to study Mandarin at a university in Hong Kong.


"When you're in New Zealand it doesn't matter so much because everyone speaks English and I suppose growing up there were very little Chinese around.

"When I went away for the first time to Hong Kong and China, I realised how Westernised I was, and suddenly you see how other people see you," she said.

Nowadays, she speaks out when people make racist comments - something she has instilled into her children.

"The difference that I find when I meet kids who have been brought up in a predominantly Asian community and their sense of self is really different to my sense of self when I was that age."


The earthquakes changed the look of Christchurch forever.

And not just the demolished broken houses, churches, and office blocks, but its people too.


Historically a predominantly white, conservative city - often described as being the most English of all New Zealand's centres - the quakes have shaken free its stereotypes.

Its $40 billion rebuild has attracted a rush of migrant workers - mostly Filipinos, followed next by the Irish, the English, Hungarian, Romanian, Indonesian, Chinese, and South Africans.

Christchurch now boasts a staggering 180 different ethnicities.

"The increase in diversity is very noticeable," said Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend.

"Christchurch before the earthquakes was a very monocultural, conservative, inward-looking city, and post-earthquake it's become much more culturally diverse and celebrating different cultures and that's been quite a big learning for the city."

Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck thinks, and hopes, that the highly-skilled workers will stay on beyond the rebuild work.


Ms Buck thinks that most Cantabrians welcome the influx as being "incredibly positive and very exciting".

"Apart from Maori who got here ahead of all of us, the rest of us are all immigrants anyway."

Rural regions

Mention a Kiwi farmer and the picture of someone who looks European clad in black singlet and gumboots comes to mind.

But co-owner of Dutchy Farm in Waiuku, Rachelle Smit - a 47-year-old Asian female originally from the Philippines - may be the face of rural New Zealand's future.

It is estimated that more than one in three working in New Zealand farms are Asian and about 1800 dairy farm workers are Filipinos.

Ms Smit said she became a farmer "by default" when she married a farmer and moved to New Zealand in 2007.


Although they are now separated, the couple still manage the farm and their 300 dairy cattle together.

"I don't see myself as being different to any other Kiwi farmer, except that farming is a tough job for any woman and that has nothing to do with ethnicity," Ms Smit said.

She preferred to employ Filipino dairy workers because they had better work ethics and were prepared to put in the hours.

New Zealand's 16 regions are projected to have increasing diversity over the next 20 years, as more migrants move in. Waikato can expect a 3.8 per cent annual increase in its Asian population to 36,800 in 2038.

Asian numbers are expected to rise from 1380 to 2850 in the Marlborough region and from 11,800 to 12,350 in Otago.

PwC Herald Talks
Mai Chen will be a panellist at next month's PwC Herald Talks breakfast event.


Subject: Changing Markets
Keynote: Sir Ray Avery
Date: November 4
Venue: SkyCity Theatre
Tickets: $89 from iTicket.

The PwC Herald Talks series are brought to you by the New Zealand Herald, PwC, Newstalk ZB and event partners SKYCITY and Kea.
Tickets for the Changing Markets breakfast on Wednesday, November 4 are $89 per person at iTicket.

- Additional reporting: Solbin King and Kurt Bayer