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Mixing it up – our changing national identity


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Mixing it up – our changing national identity

One of the most profound ways in which immigration from Asian countries is impacting on Auckland, and ultimately on New Zealand, is in the evolving nature of our national identity, says a new Asia New Zealand Foundation report.

The report – Diverse Auckland: The Face of New Zealand in the 21st Century – is now available. It was prepared by University of Auckland senior lecturer Dr Wardlow Friesen of the School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science.

As the overall Asian population of New Zealand has increased, it has become obvious that the future of New Zealand and the identity of ‘New Zealanders’ will be continued to be influenced by cultural, social, political, professional and personal linkages to Asia that are well beyond the economic.

The Diverse Auckland report highlights the evolving complexity of what defines a New Zealander with the ongoing debate about national identity increasingly likely to involve multiple layers of identity.

The report also says it is evident that over time an increasing part of the Asian population will identify as Asian as well as having European, Maori, Pacific and other ethnic identities as a result of intermarriage.

In 2006, about 10 percent of the New Zealand population identified with more than one broad ethnic group and this was especially the case for people aged less than 15 years of age.

But while the Asian population identifying with more than one broad ethnic group was slightly lower at 8 percent, nearly 20 percent or one in five of those below 15 years of age identified with more one ethnic identity.

The report also says China and Korea are likely to remain key sources of migrants for many years even though tougher English language requirements have reduced flows of people from these countries.

But the prevalence of English in the education systems of South Asian countries such as India and Sri Lanka and parts of Southeast Asia such as Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines means immigration from many of these Asian countries is increasing.

Auckland will continue to absorb a disproportionate share of this growth, with an estimated growth of about 51 percent for the Asian population up to 2016 compared with 46 percent for New Zealand as a whole.

Asia New Zealand Foundation research director Dr Andrew Butcher says the report confirms the importance of Asia and Asians to the future of New Zealand.

“The way Auckland is shaped will, in every respect, be influenced by its Asian communities. This will become true nationally as well. Our national identity will inevitably draw on New Zealand’s place in the Asia-Pacific and the populations of that region in New Zealand,” Dr Butcher said.

“If we look at the Auckland of today, we see the New Zealand of tomorrow. How Auckland responds to its growing Asian populations will serve as either a positive or a negative example to the rest of the country.

“Auckland has a remarkable and historic opportunity to engage with the Asian region through its growing Asian populations and if done well can lead the rest of New Zealand.”

There will be an official launch for the Diverse Auckland report in Auckland at 5.30pm today.

Copies of the Diverse Auckland: The Face of New Zealand in the 21st Century are available from the Asia New Zealand Foundation.


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