Faces of Auckland: Life in NZ 'so far, so good'

JARRED WILLIAMSON
Last updated 08:45 03/06/2014
Thomas Shum
Jarred Williamson
NEW LIFE: Thomas Shum left Hong Kong 17 years ago.

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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.

LEAVING POLLUTION BEHIND

Seventeen years ago Thomas Shum left densely populated and polluted Hong Kong for a new life in Auckland. 

Shum arrived in New Zealand following his sister's family after they migrated here shortly before he did.

Shum, his wife and son landed in Auckland in April 1997 and now live in Mission Heights in East Auckland. 

He left behind a successful career in banking as an investment advisor.

''There were too many people in Hong Kong,'' the 58-year-old says. 

''Life was getting too hard there and with my work at the bank there was a lot of work to do."

Shum simply wanted to retire, so choosing Auckland was an easy decision.

The lifestyle in Hong Kong isn't for everyone, he says, with air pollution and a lack of quiet open spaces to get away from large crowds of people.

''I really like the atmosphere here in Auckland, there aren't as many people here.

''The air quality is better and there is a lot of green everywhere.''

After almost two decades in Auckland, Shum says his experience has been ''so far, so good''.

''I still think Auckland is the best if I travel to other places,'' he says. 

In his retirement, Shum now volunteers for the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation.

He says the church organisation allows him to fulfil his enjoyment of helping people.

Shum visited Hong Kong again a few months ago for a couple of days.

It has changed even more drastically since he lived there.

''There are even more people living there now, I really don't miss it.''

FIVE QUESTIONS

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

Yes, definitely. You have different people from all sorts of countries. I think it's a very friendly country. It doesn't matter about your religion because whatever you believe it's accepted.

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

I've been to many places in the country. Places like Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Rotorua and many other places around the North Island. I go to Christchurch a lot, especially after the earthquakes, usually once a month.

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What is the best thing about being an Aucklander?

There's a lot more living space here. You can live in an independent house if you want. If you compare house prices to Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, it's really not that expensive to live in a nice house here. Also, you can drive to many different places. Apart from the city, you can usually park without cost.

If I was Auckland mayor I would...

I know Len Brown is focused on transport. But there aren't enough houses in Auckland. I would focus on how we can help the children in the poorer areas. Child poverty is quite serious here.

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

Of course. I watch rugby sometimes and I do support the All Blacks. I'm not the biggest rugby fan, but I do watch.

- Auckland

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