COSMOPOLITAN AUCKLAND

While writing my series of 7 book on New Zealand, I undertook a great deal of research which revealed interesting stuff about the country I was previously unaware of. Although some of this information didn’t end up in my books, it did give me the idea to start writing blogs on all things pertaining to New Zealand. Here is a really interesting fact: The Maori name ‘Aotearoa’ is supposed to mean ‘New Zealand’. In fact, it only refers to the North Island. The South Island’s Maori name is ‘Aotearoa-me-Te-Waipounamu’. Therefore, the media etc all have it wrong when they use ‘Aotearoa’ as the Maori name for New Zealand. It is actually an insult to South Islanders as they are effectively disregarded when this word is used interchangeably.

DIVERSITY

In 2016 the World Migration Report declared Auckland to be more cosmopolitan than London, New York, and Singapore as well as most other world cities. With 39% of its population born overseas, Auckland was listed as having the fourth largest foreign population of any major city in the world. Dubai, Brussels and Toronto were the only cities ahead on the list. To put this in context, 37% of London and New York’s immigrant population were born in other countries.

Viaduct Harbour Auckland (Ceidrik Heward)

POPULATION MIX

The first Europeans arrived in what would become Auckland in 1832 and by 1900 it became New Zealand’s largest city and has continued to remain so ever since then. The sprawling city is now home to 1,630,092 which is almost a third of the country’s entire population. This makes Auckland a similar size to Warsaw, Budapest, Philadelphia and Barcelona. It is also the city where the majority of new immigrants to New Zealand want to settle. With 336.000 Maori and Pacific Islanders living mainly in the southern suburbs, it is the largest Polynesian city in the world. Today, Polynesian Aucklanders make up just 14.6% of the city’s total population.  With the increasing number of immigrants flooding into the city, Asians, mainly Chinese followed by Indian, Filipino then Korean, Japanese, Cambodian and Vietnamese, currently total 443.000. Chinese make up the largest numbers at 172,000 with 96,400 born in China. Indians make up the second largest Asian group with 154,924 living in Auckland. Of these, 71,460 were born in India. 30% of these Asian Aucklanders are in the 20 to 34 age group. To put this in context, 40% of Auckland’s population was born overseas. The Asian population is very noticeable in the city’s main shopping streets where large numbers can be seen shopping and socializing. Having two of the country’s major universities next door to each other in the CBD only adds to the large number of young, mainly Chinese and Korean, people in the central city. Apart from Asians, people from South Africa, Britain, Russia and even Iran and Iraq rub shoulders in the city’s malls and supermarkets. I often hear Russian, Mandarin and Korean (and increasingly, Arabic) spoken more than English in my local supermarket.

FESTIVALS

Large family focused festivals are presented in the city each year to showcase the cultures of the three largest ethnic groups. Pasifika Festival is made up of 11 unique villages each with their own performance stage and market setting to showcase the cultures of 11 Pacific Island nations. Pacific Island food and traditional arts and crafts round out this colourful festival. The Auckland Lantern Festival celebrates Chinese New Year. Last year’s event had 800 handmade Chinese lanterns draped around, on and in the trees magically illuminating the Auckland Domain. Authentic Chinese foods are sold and live music, dance and martial arts add to the colour and excitement. The festival always closes with a traditional Chinese fireworks display. The Auckland Diwali Festival takes its inspiration from Diwali or Deepavali (row of lamps), an important and ancient Indian festival celebrated throughout India and in Indian communities around the world. The Diwali Festival of Lights signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and the renewal of life. Since 2002, the Auckland Diwali Festival has grown to be a hugely popular event showcasing Auckland’s diverse Indian communities. I have sampled the food at this event and also enjoyed the lights at the lantern festival and was impressed with both of them. They are colourful reminders of just three of the many Asian cultures flourishing in Auckland.

 ISSUES IN AUCKLAND

With the city continuing to grow by 25.000 people yearly, a housing shortage has arisen and the city’s house prices are amongst the highest in the world. This is having an adverse impact on those looking for accommodation as rents soar. At the time of writing, a three-bedroom house commands a weekly rent of between $550.00 and $700.00 in the inner suburbs with some as high as $1000.00 in the city’s most affluent areas. Auckland also has major traffic problems. This is currently being exacerbated by the construction of an underground train system, causing major disruptions to traffic in the CBD. The construction of more office and apartment tower blocks only add to the traffic holdups around the business district. A six lane, 4.5km (2.79mile) tunnel opened two years ago which helped ease travel across Auckland and it is hoped the new subway system will at least help make movement around the CBD a little easier.

BEACHES

To escape the traffic congestion, Auckland has a selection of 52 beaches to relax on. Being positioned on a narrow isthmus between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, makes it an ideal location for water sports. No wonder it is still home to the Americas Cup, the ultimate prize in yachting. However, it can all go up in a giant explosion one day as the urban sprawl sits astride 50 volcanoes but we don’t want to think about that. The last eruption took place 500 years ago, so some of these volcanos are only dormant, not extinct!

 THE PLACE TO BE

With the uncertain times the world is experiencing, New Zealand has become a favoured destination for those seeking safety and a less stressful life. With the influx of new citizens, the nearby cities of Hamilton and Tauranga are also experiencing rapid growth. Hamilton is just a 90 minute drive south and Tauranga is two and a half hours drive away.  Needless to say, property prices in these two cities have also risen sharply in the past year. New Zealand’s total population has jumped to 5,000.000, small by international standards, but when you consider vast areas of the country are uninhabited because of the mountainous terrain, there is congestion in the main urban areas, with bumper to bumper traffic during rush hours in the largest North Island cities.

Ceidrik Heward