City a gateway to diversity

16:00, Jan 13 2014
ON CAMERA: Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley with Discovery World presenter Sophie Fouron and the camera crew.

Asia has come to the North Shore, Massey University Professor Paul Spoonley says.

The Torbay resident got the chance to show an international film crew just how diverse the Shore is becoming.

As part of the Discovery Channel's Waterfront Cities of the World series, Professor Spoonley provided expert commentary on cosmopolitan Auckland.

A couple of North Shore suburbs were covered.

"Auckland has become one of the super-diverse cities of the world. It's what they call a ‘gateway city'," he says.

According to the latest census figures, 40 per cent of Aucklanders were born overseas.


The respected sociologist, who has edited or written dozens of books, says people may be surprised to know Auckland is now more diverse than any Australian city.

Sophie Fouron, the presenter for Waterfront Cities, says her crew were impressed by how friendly and tolerant Aucklanders were to each other.

Professor Spoonley believes the "intense discussion" New Zealanders have already had about Maori rights has been an "icebreaker for diversity".

"One of the places we talked about was Northcote. Between the mid-1990s and now it's become an ethnic precinct. Almost 80 per cent of businesses in Northcote shopping centre are Asian."

And a substantial Korean presence has grown around Wairau Rd, "Asia has come to the North Shore," he says.

But Auckland risks missing out on what Professor Spoonley terms the "diversity dividend" if problems immigrants face remain unresolved.

The qualities and skills Asians can bring to workplaces are under-utilised because of the "bamboo ceiling" where employers pass-over Asian job-applicants when filling higher-skilled jobs, he says.

A large part of the problem is language competency, but just as new migrants need to adjust to Auckland, Aucklanders need to adjust to new migrants, he says.

"If a quarter of Aucklanders are Asians and you can't sell to them you've lost 25 per cent of your market."

Waterfront Cities of the World will screen later this year.

North Shore Times