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In just over 20 years, the combined Asian, Pacific and Maori population in Auckland is forecast to outnumber Europeans and others.

According to Statistics New Zealand predictions, nearly a third of the city’s population in 2038 will be Asian – up from the current one in five.

With more than 200 ethnic groups calling Auckland home, the city has already been labelled by academics a “superdiverse” city.

A six-day series in the Herald, starting today, explores some of the challenges that comes with superdiversity and how to meet them.

Experts say some in business and government are not prepared for this diversity arising from changes to immigration policy since 1987.

A new report, The Superdiversity Stocktake, by Mai Chen, chairwoman of the Superdiversity Centre of Law, Policy and Business, explores the implications for business, government and New Zealand.

Ms Chen says in her report she does not believe the status quo is sustainable and investment is needed to harness our changing population.

The report addresses issues of particular relevance to the Asian population – the biggest non-indigenous minority group – and Asian migration.

Its predominant focus is on the legal, public policy and business challenges of superdiversity.

“So all New Zealanders can read it and assess for themselves what is happening to their country and what we need to do to ensure it remains economically strong and racially harmonious,” said Ms Chen. “And to ask how we want this country to be and to help shape our own future.”

Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley said the acceleration of diverse migration flows, especially since 2000, had changed the demography of New Zealand.

“By far, the impact is really an Auckland story,” Professor Spoonley, an immigration specialist, said. “With 40 per cent of Aucklanders born overseas, it is right at the top of superdiverse cities.”

However, he said the response and adjustment from business, government and core institutions to diversity had been a mixed bag.

“I would say there are a range of reactions, and the NZ Police, for example, are working hard to understand diversity in what they do,” said Professor Spoonley. “Others are struggling to understand the implications quite apart from what they should be doing.”

Professor Spoonley said that in 2038, New Zealand would be “a very different country” and the Asian population will be as large if not larger than the Maori population nationally.

Spoonley said overall Auckland was doing well, given the rapidity with which the city has changed.

“It relies upon immigrants who are skilled and well-educated to play a key role, which they do,” he said.

“But look at Vancouver and the decision made in 1989 to include a consideration of diversity in everything the city government does.

“Or how Toronto approaches diversity, and there is a significant gap between these cities which celebrate and very proactively include diversity in all sorts of policies, from the obvious such as tourism and events to the less obvious like planning and community participation.”

He said although the general population are accepting of diversity, there are concerns such as the tendency for migrant communities to speak their own languages.

Asia New Zealand Foundation surveys had found attitudes towards Asians and Asian immigrants had steadily improved since 1987.

However, AUT University Professor of Diversity Edwina Pio said many in New Zealand were not happy with immigration policy and the change in demography.

“There is fear, and feelings of being overwhelmed,” she said. “If as a country, we choose to take in immigrants and refugees, we must … prepare the general existing population to welcome them.”

All of New Zealand’s 16 regions and nearly all 67 territorial areas are projected to have increasing ethnic diversity over the next two decades.

Ethnic population projections indicate increasing Maori, Asian and Pacific populations in nearly all regions between now and 2038.

Professor Pio envisioned New Zealand in 2038 as a “wonderful mosaic of diversity”.

“[People] are likely to be browner, their tastes eclectic and they will enjoy music and food that is like a Zen haiku, a Sufi poem, an Indian dance, a British fairness and a Chinese character of harmony.”

The series

Today: Changing faces
Tomorrow: Education
Wednesday: Family life
Thursday: Democracy
Friday: Business
Saturday: NZ’s future.

NZ Herald

– Article original by Lincoln Tan