Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Diverse Auckland: are we there yet?

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  • Tariqa Satherley,

    Based on my own experience (and I only have anecdotal evidence to offer here), I'd agree that Aucklanders as a whole are fairly tolerant, but some parts of the city are far more accepting than others. When I was growing up in south Auckland - Manurewa, Wiri and Papatoetoe - my mixed heritage was never a hindrance and was very rarely a talking point (although my unusual name has always drawn attention, but that's not altogether related). The only times I've faced racist comments in Auckland have been in the inner suburbs, and while they only occurred a few times they were particularly unpleasant.

    What I've found very interesting (for lack of a better word) are the reactions from strangers to my two children. My firstborn inherited my latent white genes and has pale skin and light hair, while my second child has dark hair and olive skin like mine. The eldest is five years old and nobody has ever asked me about his ethnic background. The youngest was only seven weeks old the first time a stranger asked where we were "from".

    People in Auckland are accepting of diverse ethnic backgrounds, yes, but if you aren't white it's still something to be noticed and commented on.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Jeanette King,

    Looks like your anecdotal evidence is backed up by some research: White people become less racist just by moving to more diverse areas

    Ōtautahi • Since Oct 2010 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Tariqa Satherley,

    People in Auckland are accepting of diverse ethnic backgrounds, yes, but if you aren't white it's still something to be noticed and commented on.

    Definitely. Racism is still alive and well in Auckland, often it's just obscured under the inherent embarrassed politeness many Aucklanders cultivate.

    It's certainly better here than other parts of NZ, for what that's worth, and I do think there has been a slow shift towards being more inclusive. When my family and I moved here in the mid 1990s from Hastings, we also moved away from a homogenous society that saw us as "weird" (my father was the only person I knew who had an accent, and my sister was Māori while I and my mother plainly weren't) and into a city that welcomed us with a refreshing indifference. No one cared that we were "different", because we weren't that different here.

    I do remember witnessing (or more often hearing about) fairly blatant examples of racism in later years, though, particularly directed at my sister and at Chinese friends. Those incidents aren't really mine to discuss, but as an outsider to those experiences I do get the impression that they've become less common as the years have passed.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    For me the measure of cultural diversity is the food. When I first went overseas I couldn't understand why so many cities only had one cuisine. But if you eat around Auckland you can have almost any cuisine. Dominion road ranges from Santhiya's Sth Indian/malaysian, through Turkish kebabs, the whole gamut of chinese varieties in Balmoral as well as all along Dominion Rd, Sushi and Japanese at Banzai, great pizza at Gorgeous, a game restaurant at Cazador, through to classic modern kiwi international at Meridiths and Two Fifteen.

    All over Auckland you get a huge variety of amazing foods all over the place, at Markets and little ethnic eating houses where two dishes are great and the rest of the menu is best avoided. And our top restaurants have all benefited from that influence, both in the huge variety of produce available now and in the staff coming through who just happen to have this great family recipe for ...

    From my stomach's perspective Auckland is a hugely diverse city and that makes me very happy ... and quite hungry now :).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    For me the measure of cultural diversity is the food.

    I know some people get annoyed with the "think of the restaurants!" thing, but yeah, Dominion Road has transformed in the past decade. For me, it's Avondale Markets -- I ride there on my bike on a Sunday morning and for an hour I'm in diverse Auckland, where people from many different ethnic background trade, and trade with each other. God, I love the place.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    A 2011 MBIE paper included this graph on the percentage of people who agree that “it is a good thing for a society to be made up of people from different races, religions, and cultures”

    From following the link it looks as if that chart came from a 2000 study that was centred on Europe, plus MBIE pulled Australian data from a 2003 study, and the NZ data was taken from another study in 2008. Australia and parts of Europe might have increased (or decreased) in the 5 to 8 years since NZ data was added.

    Nevertheless it’s great to see NZ circling the top of that graph. What I’d be really interested in seeing, though, is how some of the other societies rate beyond Europe. Maybe the likes of South American, Asian and African nations. It could be quite fascinating to gauge who thinks their societies benefit from outside cultures, and then maybe dig a little deeper to discover what that actually means to them when they say that, what they’re already experiencing and what they expect from mixing other cultures in. Like, if lots of people in a society are very accepting, is that because they’re already feeling very secure with maintaining their own culture? Why do they feel that way when some others obviously don’t? Do people who answer that question only think of the other cultures they're already mostly aware of?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Define diversity, though. Auckland also houses a shitload of fundamentalist Christian homophobes and transphobes- Bob McCoskrie/Family First, Colin Craig/the Conservative Party, Family Life International (conservative Catholics), Ian Wishart/Investigrunt, Sky TV fundamentalist channel Shine Television, etc. And also note the Con Party's anti-Treaty perspectives and its stated intent to make it more difficult for foreign workers to enter the country.

    So okay, I'm a Canterbury boy and I won't make excuses for my home town ChCh's white supremacist moron problem. Lianne Dalziel and the ChCh Police need to crack down hard on those nauseating racist misfits and their attempted intimidation of Christchurch's East and South Asian communities.

    However, Auckland's diversity can be overstated...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Craig Young,

    And don't forget that 13% of us don't live in cities.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 778 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    However, Auckland’s diversity can be overstated…

    Generally, for the chattering classes "Auckland" is the old tramway suburbs.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Jean Hughes,

    yes I agree - very diverse. As a bus driver I can see this, and even that bus users are perhaps more likely to be non European. Woo hoo there is hope for public transport.
    One thing that I do like is hearing how enduring the typical 'Kiwi' accent is and the stages of it evolving.

    Mangere • Since Nov 2006 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    “Auckland” is the old tramway suburbs.

    So that's where it went off the rails!
    ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Well, to paraphrase the cops - nothing good ever happened south of Greenlane, nor north of Milford.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Jean Hughes,

    As a bus driver I can see this, and even that bus users are perhaps more likely to be non European.

    Now that's an ear-to-the-ground perspective! I've always loved that about Auckland: riding the bus and hearing all the different accents and languages, and trying to place them.

    The community of Brazilian exchange students who catch the Devonport bus every day are notorious for turning certain trips into a raucous occasion, full of Portugese and English swearwords, but the place wouldn't be the same without them.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Allan Moyle,

    The Primary School my wife is a DP at with close to 800 children has to get in speakers of 21 languages to conduct parent-teacher interviews. The latest being Pashtun and Nepali.
    The school is great example of inclusiveness being a unconscious competence, both with so many ethnic groups present but also the 40 or so severely physically & intellectually disabled children who are involved and engaged in playground games and sports as much as possible by the other children.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Jean Hughes, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    yep - and on Dominion, Sandringham and Manukau Rds - Asian, Indian, and various Europeans all chattering away on their phones as well as to each other make an orchestra of language the bus norm. But the little gems of Kiwi drawl/inflection popping up within other accents, makes me smile as I see that as a real community evolving in a personal and unique way.

    Mangere • Since Nov 2006 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Here in Welly, diversity is a given, and there’s more to it than just the embassies and High Commissions. Even then, it’s not free of racial incidents - isolated as they are even though I’ve hardly ever experienced one personally. The boyfriend of one of my Twitter followers was given a black eye by a couple of pre-loaded young women on Courtenay Pl not too long ago, who probably would have been too dumb anyway to tell the difference between a Chinese and a Japanese.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I’ve wondered for years whether there is actually any useful metric at all for diversity. It’s not a trivial question, because people use “more diverse” all the time, like it’s a meaningful concept. But what does it actually mean? Can a number be put to it? If not, can we at least order from most to least diverse? Can we ever say we’re there yet, if there is no measurable milestone of any kind?

    ETA: I guess we can measure the entropy of the racial data, but does anyone?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Mr Mark,

    I see the old Nazi/Romantic Nationalist 'Blut und Boden' still burns brightly for roughly half of Germans and Austrians (according to the chart). Dear oh dear. Still, I guess you could say the same about ethnically-cleansing Israelis.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2009 • 128 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart,

    Auckland is so diverse that the ASB has Migrant, Asian and Korean Banking Units. Those bankers aren't stupid.

    Since Nov 2006 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    For some time now, Auckland Libraries' selfcheck machines give you the option of English, Maori, Mandarin and Korean (possibly others as I write this). May seem like a meaningless little footnote but just another sign of diversity just built into the everyday. You have to really stop and look to realise how much things have changed in the space of a few decades.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Young,

    Define diversity, though

    It's just another word for variety. Not recognition, tolerance or respect, which is what you seem to be conflating it with.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    It’s just another word for variety. Not recognition, tolerance or respect, which is what you seem to be conflating it with.

    Quite. In some respects, diversity could negatively impact on tolerance, if it means more people with conservative social or religious views.

    I do regard a broader range of faces and voices as a good thing, though, and I'm intrigued by how many people seem to feel the same way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Diversity can really slow things down if we respond properly to it.

    There's always a short-term tension between efficiency and inclusiveness. The latter seems less useful when decisions don't require smart design or long-term buy-in.

    Unfortunately bozos like our current government can't seem to tell when that applies and when it doesn't - hence Christchurch under Fieldmarshall Brownlee, Major Joyce and Bugler Key.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Interpersonal chem mystery...

    diversity could negatively impact on tolerance

    It's all about the interaction interstitially innit?

    Whether the 'sets' of life's Venn Diagram
    abut and abrade rather than
    overlap and abide
    or suffuse into a solution...

    ...a lot like handling any toxic element,
    and humanity is just as corrosive
    as oxygen and water or acid -

    dose and balance
    and hit and miss

    in the Temperate Zone
    somewhere between
    a simmering melting pot
    & roiling melting point.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • alobar, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I do regard a broader range of faces and voices as a good thing, though, and I’m intrigued by how many people seem to feel the same way.

    I do , and I suspect most people reading this will too , but it might be a different story on another blog. I remember a post on Whale Oil about the benefits of a mono cultural society but can't find it now .

    auckland • Since Apr 2010 • 63 posts Report Reply

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