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Faces of Auckland: 'Disinherited and defrocked'

JOSH FAGAN
Last updated 06:53 01/07/2014
Ataur Rahman
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ

HAPPY LIFE: Ataur Rahman was born in Bangladesh, educated in England and has been living in New Zealand since the 1970's.

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Auckland is one of the most multicultural cities in the world with more than a third of its citizens born overseas and boasting more than 200 nationalities living here.

Faces of Auckland is a series talking to those who have left all corners of the world to make their home here, reminding us why Auckland is so good.

LOVING SACRIFICE

Ataur Rahman's parents didn't speak to him for seven years when he told them he was marrying a New Zealander.

His wife Carolyn's parents were a little more accommodating, sending their congratulations after just five years of silence.

"We both got disowned, disinherited and defrocked," Rahman said.

Bangladeshi Rahman was 24 years old at the time and living in London. He and Carolyn married and had two sons together before they decided to move toAuckland in 1977.

He said despite studying at boarding schools in England since he was eight years old, his parents always held great expectations that he would return to Bangladesh.

"It didn't really work out as planned," he admits.

"But I was very fortunate to be able to come out to New Zealand. I had got used to the British system, I played rugby at school and I was accustomed to cricket and other sports."

He recalls being enraptured by Auckland from the day he arrived.

"I genuinely thought I had come to paradise," he said.

Out of 10 job interviews in his first week he had five job offers, choosing a role with an accounting firm that travelled around New Zealand doing auditing.

He said the relaxed countryside was a stark contrast to the ugly racial tensions that were simmering across the UK at the time. 

"I was glad to leave England behind," he said."What I found here was there was no such thing as race relations. I found I got on very well with people. I had no problems." 

On top of his accounting work, where he formed his own practice in 1986, Rahman dedicated a lot of his time to community service. He has been heavily involved in the Auckland multicultural society and was made a Member of The New Zealand Order of Merit in 2000 for services to race relations.

His two children, Andrew and Christopher both live in Australia.He said his parents even came around to the idea of him living in New Zealand, eventually. 

"When the grandchildren arrived they started to thaw."

SIX QUESTIONS

Is New Zealand tolerant of different cultures and are you able to express you cultural identity fully here?

When I first moved here I would say yes, very much so. I think there was a period where we went through disharmony but I think that is changing again for the better. 

Have you ever travelled in NZ outside of Auckland and where to?

I was very fortunate to work for a company that has operations from as far north as Kerikeri to south to Invercargill. My wife's family also come from the Bay of Islands so I've had a lot of opportunities to travel through New Zealand. 

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What is best about being an Aucklander?

Beautiful city, diversity, all sorts of activities, whether it's cultural, sports, the beaches. I love Auckland.

If I was Auckland mayor I would ....

Focus on expenditure. People are feeling the pinch of horrendous rates increases. I would do whatever I could to keep the annual increase of rates in line with the CPI and rein in the excesses, keep it in touch with reality and affordability of the people.

Do you watch rugby and do you support the All Blacks?

I love rugby. I've followed the All Blacks every game.

What is the biggest change you have seen since arriving in New Zealand? 

There has been a tremendous change of all the different ethnicities in what they bring, not only in cultural changes but in diversity and authenticity of ethnic foods. The number of food halls that are in the city and the variety of restaurants and type of food is amazing. When I came here you could only get a pizza or a Chinese takeaway.

- Auckland

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