The ability to work with people from different and their own unique blended cultures is going to matter more.

New Zealand culture is changing fast because we have double the number of people born outside the country and twice the number of ethnicities than the definition of a superdiverse city/country - especially in Auckland. And with a high number of indigenous people and high rates of intermarriage between all ethnicities, there are increasing numbers of babies being born with more than one ethnicity.

The culture and values of these people are not just their home countries or Kiwi culture. It's a blend - an evolution. My own son was born here. He has predominantly Kiwi culture and values but he is also half Chinese and half British as my husband was born in England to Scottish parents (Aberdeen and the Shetlands).

When my son marries, his unique blend of culture and values will no doubt be further enhanced with whoever he partners with, and just how culturally interesting the offspring will be is anyone's guess.

When I recently went back to Taiwan for a big family reunion, I was able to compare and contrast my culture and values. Some of my Taiwanese family had studied in the United States, so their culture and values were closer to my Kiwi culture and values, but then we were all raised by Taiwanese parents, so working hard, respecting elders and accepting sacrifice and suffering for the sake of succeeding was all commonly hard wired.


So when I am back in Taiwan, my culture and values are not the same as the locals, but when I am in New Zealand, my culture and values can best be described as Kiwi with Chinese overtones in terms of work ethic, valuing education and the importance of family.

And my story is replicated throughout New Zealand. Just different ethnicities, or indigeneity. I went to a wedding on Sunday night of a fifth generation Chinese family in New Zealand whose youngest daughter is marrying a Kiwi with Maori roots.

So what does this mean for New Zealand?

It means that employers may soon find that the key skill/capability they are recruiting for is Cultural Intelligence or CQ, and not just IQ and EQ, although the latter remain important. That ability to work with people from different (and their own unique blended) cultures is going to matter more, whether those people are employees, or customers, or citizens. The ability not to stereotype culture and values, but remain open to listening until you really understand who and what you are dealing with will become paramount. One size will increasingly not fit anyone.

Secondly, government, business and organisations trying to sync with the culture and values of their customers and citizens need to be adaptable and agile to keep up with the cultural evolution of New Zealand's population.

Thirdly, it will impact the outcome of referenda like those being held on the New Zealand Flag this year and next - which is all about nationhood, culture and values. Fourthly, cultural evolution needs to be factored into policy and law making.

For example, some new migrants may come with no culture of voting in democratic elections and need extra guidance as to why it matters and what to do. For example, the research the Superdiversity Centre of Law Policy and Business is doing with the support of the New Zealand Law Foundation shows that there is no English language requirement in our electoral laws for a person to vote or to be elected to Parliament, or to participate in local Government.

There is already some accommodations for voters not understanding English in the Electoral Act, the Local Electoral Act and the Referenda (Postal Voting) Act. New Zealand has done more thinking on diversity issues with its electoral laws than other countries, but more needs to be done.


Finally, older Kiwis in particular may fear that their culture may be overtaken by foreign cultures, so it is important that new migrants get good induction about Kiwi culture and values, but everyone should also understand the rights under the NZ Bill of Rights Act of linguistic, cultural and religious minorities.

• Mai Chen chairs the Superdiversity Centre of Law, Policy and Business, which has won a NZ Law Foundation Grant to publish research in 2015 on the impact of superdiversity on electoral law and policy.
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.