Smart Talk at the Auckland Museum

A series of panel discussions recorded before an audience at the Auckland Museum.

2015: Auckland as an island

Smart Talk at the Auckland Museum: Auckland as an island

The future of Auckland is the focus of a panel discussion chaired by Bill Ralston at the Auckland Museum. It features Marina Matthews from the law firm Chen Palmer; and Waikare Komene, a young architect from Otara, along with Professor Damon Salesa from the University of Auckland, and business commentator Rod Oram, well-known to RNZ listeners.

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Ethnoburbs and super-diversity – a city in change, but with cause for hope

According to Marina Matthews from the law firm Chen Palmer, super-diversity means having 25% of your population who are migrants, or having 100 different languages spoken. Far exceeding those thresholds, she says, “Auckland is super-diverse now. It has 160 languages, and has 44% who were born overseas. Maori, Pasifika and Asian people make up 50% of Auckland’s population.”

One consequence is the rise of “ethnoburbs” – suburbs significantly inhabited by a single ethnic group. Even nationally-franchised businesses based in these suburbs change how they operate to keep the local customers loyal. “At Pak’n’Save at Albany,” she remarks, “the number one seller is white rice, as opposed to potatoes. Another popular seller is chicken feet. The French markets in Parnell are quite different from what I’d get if I went out to Otara on a Saturday.”

Pacific people have a special relationship with New Zealand, according to Professor Damon Salesa from the University of Auckland. The influx of Pacific migration means that for many Pacific nations, Auckland is the centre of their largest populations. There are 100,000 Samoans in Auckland, making it the largest Samoan city in the world. And the same is true for Tokelauans, Niueans, and Cook Islanders.

“Given that those are fast-growing, energetic communities,” he says, “that points to a really positive future for Auckland if we make sure we can unleash that potential.”

He warns, however, about the risk of segregation, citing those who know nothing of South Auckland other than the route to and from the airport. Otara-based Maori architect Waikare Komene, deeply involved in the effort to build high-quality, low-cost housing, considers that early contact is critical to developing understanding and tolerance for those from other cultures.

He cites his experience of education: “Coming from South Auckland as a Maori, I went to high school with a lot of Polynesians, and I associated, connected, and spoke their language and understood their culture before even understanding and taking on my own.”

For business commentator Rod Oram, it’s an open question whether Pakeha in Auckland are connecting deeply with other cultures, “or just turning up in Albert Park for the annual Lantern Festival, or for Diwali, or whatever.”

The big increase seen in inter-ethnic unions is a cause for hope, according to Prof. Salesa. “Increasingly,” he comments, “young Asian and Pacific people are more and more likely to marry or partner and have children with people from outside their own ethnic category.” For Maori, however, he says that the situation is almost the reverse, as they are getting less and less likely to marry non-Maori.

About the participants

Bill Ralston

Bill Ralston - Moderator

Bill Ralston’s career as a journalist, editor and broadcaster, working in television, radio and print in New Zealand spanned more than thirty years. During this time he worked for TVNZ, TV3, ACP magazines and also contracted for various roles with Sky TV, RadioWorks, NZ Magazines, Fairfax, APN and TRN.

During that time, among other roles, Bill was political editor for TV3, Editor of Metro magazine and Head of New & Current Affairs at TVNZ.

Rod Oram

Rod Oram

Rod Oram has 40 years’ experience as an international business journalist. He has worked for various publications in Europe and North America, including the Financial Times of London.

He is currently a columnist for the Sunday Star-Times; a regular broadcaster on radio and television; and a frequent public speaker on business, economics, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, in both NZ and global contexts.

For more than a decade, Rod has been helping fast-growing New Zealand companies through his involvement with The ICEHOUSE, the entrepreneurship centre at the University of Auckland’s Business School.

In 2010, Rod was the winner in the individual category in the Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards and was Columnist of the Year in the consumer category in the national magazine awards for his columns in Good magazine.

Rod is a founding trustee and chairman of the Akina Foundation, and a founding trustee of Aotearoa New Zealand Foundation for Public Interest Journalism.

Damon Salesa

Damon Salesa

Damon Salesa is University Director of Pacific Strategy and Engagement and Associate Professor and Head of Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland.

He is editor and author of a number of books and scholarly articles on the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. He is the author of Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage and the Early Victorian Empire (Oxford, 2011; paperback 2013), which won the Ernest Scott Prize in 2012 and jointly edited and authored Tangata o le Moana: New Zealand and the People of the Pacific (Te Papa Press, 2012).

He is currently working on a social, environmental and technological history of Samoa for which he was awarded a Marsden grant from the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Marina Matthews

Marina Matthews

Marina is a Partner at Chen Palmer New Zealand Public and Employment law specialists, and is based in the Chen Palmer Auckland office. Marina is leader of the Education team at Chen Palmer, and specialises in education law, public policy, regulatory and funding frameworks, and working with government. Marina also has significant experience in advising on restructuring and change management in the public sector.

Prior to joining Chen Palmer, Marina has nine years’ experience in key public policy roles in the public sector, including four years as a Private Secretary to four different Ministers of Education and Tertiary Education. Marina is passionate about helping organisations understand how Government and public policy works, and enjoys translating "Wellington" speak for Aucklanders.

Marina is Ngati Kahu and Tuwharetoa, and is a born and bred Southlander.

Waikare Komene

Waikare Komene

Waikare Komene is a young professional from Otara who is passionate about empowering communities from the grassroots up. Waikare is a qualified architect and is the driving force behind The Roots Creative Entrepreneurs.

The Roots describes itself as a ‘Social Enterprise, a Movement and a Network’, and is based on the five values of roots, creativity, sustainability, generations and community. It aims to inspire generations by developing opportunities to showcase creativity, innovation and design through environmental awareness and sustainability.   #keepingitroots

Social enterprise—a venture that uses a business model to create social and environmental value. It generates income through trading products or services, and the majority of any revenue is reinvested back in to its purpose, our KAUPAPA! Inspiring generations through creativity and sustainability.