IMAGINE, for a minute, a New Zealand without vineyards, wonton soup, Diwali (the festival of lights) or the art of John Pule ...

A New Zealand without golfer Lydia Ko or rugby player Jerome Kaino ...

Sad, indeed, but a likely scenario had New Zealand not been a destination for migrants over the years.

The recently released 2018 citizenship data by the Department of Internal Affairs makes the striking point that new citizens to New Zealand came from 203 different countries, with India, the Philippines and China featuring in the top 10 countries of birth granted citizenship.

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This data reinforces New Zealand's reputation as a welcoming and inclusive country.
The make-up of New Zealand's population has changed dramatically over the last 15 years, and our diversity continues to grow.

Ethnic communities have consistently proven to be invaluable to our country, and people are embracing New Zealand as their own country.

It's a big step accepting and embracing New Zealand and its values, but it is a two-way relationship; successful social cohesion relies on New Zealanders' ability to accept and embrace what our new citizens stand for.

We all sign up to the same things but how we do it can differ.

New Zealand can build a powerful global presence by demonstrating how to create a society that thrives because of the diversity of its people. But this can only happen if we are prepared to acknowledge that there are different ways of thinking and working and feeling connected that might differ to our own ideas.

Lydia Ko.
Lydia Ko.

We're a small country where positive social inclusion can and should come easily. But an increasingly diverse society also brings its share of challenges, as we have seen in some other countries.

For an increasingly diverse society to thrive, people need to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion.

The work the Government does through the Office of Ethnic Communities and other agencies supports this by ensuring the perspective of ethnic communities is integrated into government policy and services.

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It seeks to increase the ethnic diversity in governance positions through nominations to boards and committees and the work we do for our ethnic communities to flourish through increasing civic participation, a sense of safety and celebrating the events that bring communities together.

Anita Balakrishnan
Anita Balakrishnan

Ideally, through the change in New Zealand demographics, we will see ethnic communities seamlessly represented in policies and services and have a productive presence in the workforce, including in senior leadership and governance positions, and our connections to the world will continue to expand.

The citizenship data for 2018, and the wide range of backgrounds, presents a positive picture about New Zealand's reputation as a welcoming and inclusive country.

This reflects positively on our manaakitanga and the strength of our communities to enable people new to our shores to participate fully in society.

The Office of Ethnic Communities is the Government's authoritative adviser on ethnic diversity in New Zealand.

It provides information, advice and services to, and for, ethnic communities in New Zealand and administers funds to support community development and social cohesion.

Anita Balakrishnan is the director of the Office of Ethnic Communities