The new wave of Pacific migration: Thousands leave Auckland housing crisis behind for life in the provinces

Ta'ufo'ou Mataka with her children Lydia 7, Akameta 1, Taufoou, John, 5, and Maryanne 8. Ta'ufo'ou and her husband ...

Ta'ufo'ou Mataka with her children Lydia 7, Akameta 1, Taufoou, John, 5, and Maryanne 8. Ta'ufo'ou and her husband swapped a life in Auckland for a life in regional New Zealand.

Ta'ufo'ou​ Mataka hasn't looked back since leaving her Auckland home four years ago for a new life in Timaru.

The mother of four​ moved to the South Island when her husband, Misimana​ Mataka, accepted a job as a fishing ship engineer, and is one of thousands of Pacific Islanders leaving Auckland for a fresh start in the South Island. 

According to Statistics New Zealand, several thousand Pacific Islanders have left Auckland for greener pastures in towns like Oamaru and Ashburton, the exodus being fuelled by increased employment opportunities and more affordable housing.

Tongan Society of South Canterbury President Siesina Latu

Tongan Society of South Canterbury President Siesina Latu

Ta'ufo'ou Mataka is part of what appears to be a third great wave of Pacific Islander migration into and across New Zealand. 

* Families ditching Auckland for Timaru
* Timaru's first Pasifika playgroup
* Tongan society established in South Canterbury

Earlier waves in the 1970s and 1990s saw Pacific Islanders move into the inner city Auckland suburb of Ponsonby, and then on to the city's southern suburbs. 

Young members of the Tongan Society of South Canterbury at a Timaru school during Tongan Language Week in 2016.

Young members of the Tongan Society of South Canterbury at a Timaru school during Tongan Language Week in 2016.

Mataka said she would never consider moving back to Auckland.

"Timaru is big enough but not too big" she said "it's quiet, it's a good place to raise children."

"It's easy to adapt to life here, there is a big Tongan community." 

Members of the Tongan Society of South Canterbury at a Timaru school during Tongan Language Week in 2016.

Members of the Tongan Society of South Canterbury at a Timaru school during Tongan Language Week in 2016.

Ofa Boyle is the manager of the Fale​ Pasifika O Aoraki Trust, which assists Pacific Islanders in the South Island regions of Mid-Canterbury, South Canterbury, and North Otago by helping them connect with government organisations to access support services. 

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Boyle believes movement of Pacific Islanders to regional areas is a "big event" in New Zealand's cultural history. 

"A merged Islander and traditional (European New Zealand) culture is emerging" she said.

Tongan students celebrate their culture during Tongan Language Week in 2016.

Tongan students celebrate their culture during Tongan Language Week in 2016.

According to 2013 census figures,  3711 Pacific Islanders moved from Auckland to North Island regions between 2006 and 2013, and a further 975 Pacific Islanders moved from Auckland to the South Island during the same period. 

And they're not just coming from Auckland. Work approvals figures released by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment show 1273 work visas were approved for Pacific Islanders to work in Auckland in 2016-2017, while 1208 were approved for Pacific Islanders to work in the regions. 

Ofa Boyle believes these movements of people goes even further than what plain statistics might illustrate. 

Members of the Tongan Society of South Canterbury at a Timaru school during Tongan Language Week in 2016.

Members of the Tongan Society of South Canterbury at a Timaru school during Tongan Language Week in 2016.

"There's always new families arriving here," Boyle said.

"When we ask where they come from, it's always Auckland."

There were 500 Pacific Islanders were recorded as living in Oamaru in 2013, now that figure would be closer to 2000.

The main motivators for people moving from Auckland to regional centres was job availability and housing affordability, Boyle said.

Other motivators were a desire to be closer to family members, as well as overcrowding in Auckland. 

While the new arrivals are bringing their own foods and customs, they tend to integrate well in to their new surroundings, Boyle said. 

Boyle fears mass migration of Pacific Islanders to the regions could create the same overcrowding issues experienced by many families in Auckland, however.

"We have applied for emergency housing for many Pacific families," she said.

Growth in the general Pacific Islander population in the regions is reflected in the growth of individual Pacific Island communities. 

The Tongan Society of South Canterbury has seen numbers well from 40 founding members last year to more than 120.

Secretary Pauline-Jean Luyten​ said Tongans were coming to South Canterbury to work in places like the meatworks, the freezing works, and the fisheries.

Latu​ said they are staying because there is a strong sense of community in Timaru, which she attributed to a strong sense of family and Christian spirituality among Tongans. 

 - Sunday Star Times


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