Whether you like it or not, Auckland is the engine room of New Zealand, the economic hub with a population forecast of approximately 2 million in the next 15 or so years.*
Heading south down State Highway 1 and up over the Bombay Hills, the further you go, the more apparent it becomes… ”we're not in Auckland anymore.”
There's no place like Auckland
Massey University Pro Vice-Chancellor, Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley FRSNZ, says Auckland is increasingly becoming something different from the rest of New Zealand, both in size and cultural diversity.
“Auckland is one of the most super-diverse cities anywhere in the world where 40% living there are born overseas. It’s much more cosmopolitan and internationally connected,” he says. “The population forecasts indicate that 60% of New Zealand’s growth will occur in Auckland over the next decade and it will be home to 40% of all New Zealanders in the future.”
SEE ALSO: Welcome to the new New Zealand
With 2 dominant Asian populations, Indian and Chinese, Auckland has a medium-sized Korean and Filipino community as well as migrant populations from the UK, South Africa, and Pasifika.
“This super-diversity means that food, sports, media, religious beliefs, languages, and attitudes are also very super-diverse. Traditional values and practices are being replaced in some instances or being renegotiated as to what does it means to be an Aucklander in the 21st century."
And it's only going to get more diverse
Professor Spoonley says if the future face of Auckland is to be fully understood, then one should go and look at some of Auckland’s schools.
“The children of Asian migrants (75% of all Asians are born overseas so we are talking about the other 25%) will dramatically change Auckland educationally, in terms of culture and leisure, and other areas like sport.
“Look at the growth in the numbers playing golf, basketball, badminton, table tennis, or football. In 10 years, the sport landscape will have changed significantly unless traditional sports can attract Asian participation.”
A growing divide
The Salvation Army’s 2015 Mixed Fortunes Report released last month said based on current trends, it’s apparent that New Zealand is on a divergent growth path which risks the creation of 2 New Zealands – Auckland and the rest.
It said Aucklanders will be younger, wealthier, better-skilled, and more ethnically diverse than the rest of New Zealand. Within such differences are the seeds for a growing divide in values and expectations.
The Mixed Fortunes Report stated the regions in New Zealand which are most marginalised economically and socially have the least ability to respond to the challenges they face around an aging population, climate change, and resource scarcity.
It is quite possible that these regions are the ones that will be first and worst affected by the shocks and trends emerging from these challenges.
For those living outside of Auckland, Professor Spoonley believes the challenge will be 2-fold.
“This will be to retain or grow their population, especially in terms of those between 15 and 35 years of age, and secondly, to grow 21st century jobs."
The Humanities and Social Sciences Professor says some regions will stagnate and might experience depopulation, while others will do reasonably ok.
“These areas around the country will also be significantly less culturally diverse.”
Attitudes can either help or hinder progress
He says the barriers that hinder the natural progression of change are the attitudes of the host population.
“Are they prepared to be welcoming or to adapt? These include groups such as employers.
“If I had a concern, it would be that Aucklanders do not engage with and understand other parts of the country that well – or the reverse. I have certainly encountered some strong anti-Auckland sentiments – in some cases, outright prejudice.”
Cultures, he says, whether within an ethnic or other community or as a nation, are always being changed.
“The latest change is to add to the country’s biculturalism with immigrant-derived multiculturalism. Some of what emerges will be negotiated in the bedrooms and houses of New Zealand, while our schools, hospitals or courtrooms will also see the positive, and negative, outcomes.
"But one thing is sure, New Zealand will change and it will be a very different country from the past."
* Salvation Army’s 2015 Mixed Fortunes Report
SEE ALSO: Welcome to the new New Zealand
Auckland vs Otago: Infographic
How do the Auckland Region's statistics from the Mixed Fortunes Report stack up against Otago's?