Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Pacific Perspective - Pasifika and New Zealand's Future

Photo: Ramona Tuai, the teacher at Richmond Road Primary's Samoan bilingual unit, says her pupils' parents had lost touch with their ethnic culture. Photo Kenny Rodger. New Zealand Herald.

Some time ago I began a series called Pacific Perspective, looking at relations between Australia and the Pacific. A key focus was the way in which we had forgotten our Pacific past. I have included previous posts in the series at the end of this post.

Like I number of my series I got side-tracked. However, browsing around I found some interesting stories in the on-line edition of the New Zealand Herald on the results of the 2006 New Zealand census that ignited my interest
I realised that it was now eight years since I was last in New Zealand, probably the longest gap ever, and clearly far too long. New Zealand has been changing and quickly in ways that I think have largely slipped below the Australian radar
Australians think of Sydney as a multicultural melting pot. Auckland makes Sydney look like a pussy cat.

According to the Herald, Auckland has a resident European population of only 54 per cent - the rest is a melting pot of 8 per cent Maori, 13 per cent Pacific people and 24 per cent Asian. More than than half of school-aged children in Auckland are now non-European. Thirty seven per cent of the Auckland population was born outside New Zealand.

This is quite a remarkable change in terms of the increase in both the Pacific Islander and Asian components.

Like Sydney, Auckland is the main entry point for migrants, some of whom trickle though to other parts of the country. However, the trickle through effect in New Zealand appears much smaller.

Nationally, New Zealand is still dominated by those of European descent, with 68 per cent European, 15 per cent Maori, 7 per cent Pacific, and 9 per cent Asian residents. So there is a clear divergence between Auckland's population structure and the national picture, with some parts of the South Island still overwhelmingly European.

In another story, demographer Jude Hoosen warns Aucklanders that they need to wake up to the city's brown future. Part of Hoosen's point is that business in particular needs to focus on changing demography since this determines its future staff.

Forecasts for 2016 show that Pakeha children will be just 38 per cent of 0- to 14-year-olds in Auckland. Pacific and Asian groups will each have 23 per cent - with Maori at 16 per cent. At national level, Pakeha children will still dominate at 55 per cent, but Maori children will make up 22 per cent of the age segment. Hoosen warns that
while more Maori and Pacific Islanders are getting university degrees they often feel excluded from top jobs and business is not doing enough to nurture local talent. There is also a danger that ethnic groups become segregated or ghettoised in various suburbs, increasing the difficulty disadvantaged children face in trying to move up or out.
Auckland has always been a Pacific city in a way Australian cities have not.

In another interesting report, Pasifika - Identity or illusion?, Alan Perrott explores the challenges faced by New Zealand's Pacific Island communities. In his words: You are New Zealand-born, perhaps your parents are, too, but your ancestral home is a dot in the Pacific. How do you describe yourself?

This is a fascinating article, worthy of a full post in its own right. It explores the tensions and confusions that can arise between being New Zealand, preserving links with and the cultures of home, and the emergence of officially pushed concepts such as Pasifika, a Pacific Islands' culture. In Perrott's words:

Pasifika is an odd term, and one gaining increasing currency outside the annual festival at Western Springs. Essentially, its the samoanisation of a Portuguese nod to the Latin phrase Mare Pacificum, or peaceful sea, so named by navigator Ferdinand Magellan. In this country it has become an umbrella term for everyone living here with traceable Pacific island heritage. You'll find it touted enthusiastically by governmental social ministries and schools. Once were islanders, Polynesians, PIs, Pacific peoples and so on, now are Pasifika.
I commend the story to you for its interesting insights.

Both Pasifika and the New Zealand census results should act as reminder to those on this side of the ditch (the Tasman Sea for the benefit of international readers) of the pace of change in New Zealand.

Previous Posts in the Pacific Series

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