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Presentation looks at Auckland's diversity

SHABNAM DASTGHEIB
Last updated 11:44 28/07/2014

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Auckland's diversity, which outranks many of the world's biggest cities, hasn't come without drawbacks and barriers but researchers say this is all part of the growing pains of a young booming global city.

University of Waikato and Massey University researchers backed by funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spoke to employers, school leavers and households over two years for the recently released presentation Understanding ethnic diversity in Auckland.

They found all the benefits and growing pains that came along with a newly diverse city were present in Auckland, where diversity had boomed in the past 20 years.

''Auckland is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, along the lines of Toronto which is a much larger city. Because it is a gateway city most people who come to New Zealand as migrants come to Auckland. People often come where there are people who speak the same language and have had a previous experience of migrating to New Zealand,'' Massey University associate professor Robin Peace said. 

''A lot of people of working age in Auckland haven't been in the country that long. They are one or one and a half generation people who either came here as migrants or who were born here as children of migrants.''

The research found the face of Auckland was changing as more immigrants from South Asia and South East Asia arrived coupled with fewer immigrants from East Asian countries like China, Korea and Japan.

There are currently 160 languages spoken in Auckland.

Where there were concerns about diversity, they related mainly to the perceived loss of 'Kiwi' values and the use of non-English languages.

She said migrants faced many challenges from coming to such a young country (in terms of population).

Many in New Zealand spoke only one language, migrants had to battle constantly with changing visa regulations and then there were the usual cultural and work-related differences to deal with. 

On talking to school leavers, the researchers found diversity in Auckland was their main point of focus. In contrast, students in Westland were focused on employment while students in Southland were focused on mobility and where they would travel to.

''The schools were much more aware of diversity as an ordinary part of their lives. Also elements of racial tension are now an ordinary part of their lives as well,'' Peace said.

Tensions, lack of integration and language barriers were all expected of a newly diverse society, Peace said.

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''New Zealand is a very, very young country in terms of population so we haven't had diverse migrant groups here for longer than 150 odd years. When Anglos came here they were diverse groups for the Maori to deal with and when the Pacific people came here in the 1950s they were a diverse group for Maori and Anglo to deal with. It is a really recent thing.''

Peace said migrants in Auckland could not be classified in terms of what work they did as they ''did everything''. 

The report shows about half of migrants go into some kind of professional work while a quarter go to the clerical and administrative sector. The remaining number are spread out across managerial roles, trades and sales.

Migration was still an under-researched topic in New Zealand and more longitudinal studies were needed to asses its impacts, Peace said.

''The general sense is that diversity has had a very positive impact in terms of employment and economic impact.''

- Stuff

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