Auckland’s two million person problem

For Auckland is a new Spinoff podcast of civic conversations with people working to create and sustain a better Auckland for all. In episode two host Timothy Giles spoke to Pauline Winters about migration.

Auckland is preparing for a population of two million residents. Migration continues to play a huge role in shaping the city. How new cultures integrate and are included in their new home is one of Auckland’s major issues for the future.

Pauline Winter (Te Atiawa/Taranaki) is the co-chair of Committee for Auckland and a long-time Pacific business leader in public and private sectors. In 2008 she was awarded a Queen’s Service Order for her work for business and Pacific communities.

On the podcast, she speaks about the difficulty migrants face in integrating within New Zealand’s labour market, political system and everyday social interactions. She asks how can we, as the people of Auckland, contribute to creating a better city for everyone now and for future generations?

“Yes, we are a city of migration. Auckland’s always been a city of migration but the acceleration of people coming into the country from a much broader diverse set of countries has really taken off and it kind of takes your breath away. When you are across walking across Auckland or in the car, through this city, it’s quite a different place to what it was 10, 15 years ago. So all of a sudden it’s arrived. We talked about it for a long time but it’s here now and it is up to us what we do with this,” she says.

Listen to episode two of For Auckland on the player below, subscribe on iTunes, download this episode (right click and save) or read on for a transcribed excerpt. For Auckland is brought to you by the Committee for Auckland and produced by The Spinoff. 


Timothy Giles: Kia ora, tau talofa lava Pauline. Let’s take a look at your career from running your own business, to leading national organizations and most recently, from my memory, as CEO of a government ministry.

Pauline, for as long as I have followed your career you’ve been an advocate for an inclusive Auckland and I’m keen to start by asking how’s your mission on this going? I mean, is it that you’re leading it, is it that it’s contributing, or are you just about making Auckland better?

Pauline Winters: I think maybe I will correct you. It’s not so much making Auckland better but it’s contributing too which I think is really important because we’ve all got a role to play in terms of how we want what Auckland to be in the future. Now, and in the future.

Auckland is working pretty good though Pauline, isn’t it?

I think Auckland is working for some but not for all – it’s not a new story, I think that’s quite an old story. And so some of my motivation for coming back to Auckland from Wellington, where I spent five years working the public service, was to look at how we can work across Auckland to ensure that all Aucklanders feel as though they are part of this beautiful city and that they can see that there is a place for them.

So let’s talk about that for a moment. The population of Auckland has exploded massively in recent years. In fact, I heard on a news service the other day that we have, in the OECD, had the fastest growing population of any of the OECD nations. But that that to me is problematic and I’m interested in talking to you about that. But first of all a context of you and where you come from – so five years in Wellington, at that time you were CE ministry of Pacific Islander Affairs, correct?

Correct. And we had a name change too during that time so Ministry for Pacific People which I think is relevant.

So two minutes in I’ve had two corrections for me already.

Well, no it’s really giving flavour to how I believe fundamentally, that for any change to happen, it is actually holding hands with others and enlisting others in terms of you know what it is. So people with a common vision.

Ministry for Pacific Peoples. Alright so people with a common vision. You’ve talked to me previously and I know you’ve got a bunch of roles – you’re an established leader, a director of multiple things, and I met you in this context through the being the chair of the Committee for Auckland, and you’ve talked about Auckland as a city of migration: holding hands with people, people who are brand new here, people who don’t speak the same language as me, people who I don’t know at all. How’s that going?

I think that from my perspective and having only been back in Auckland for the last 12 months and, although I’m Auckland born and bred, Auckland has moved so fast in many ways since the integration of all the cities into one super city and I think, as we thought about the Super City, I think most Aucklanders had a view in terms of what it would look like and I’m really curious whether or not people still hold that view, and whether it was what they imagined at this point in time, that super city and if its super for all or not. And I think yes, we are a city of migration. Auckland’s always been a city of migration but the acceleration of people coming into the country from a much broader diverse set of countries really kind of takes your breath away. When you are across walking across Auckland or in the car, it’s like quite a different place to what it was 10, 15 years ago. So all of a sudden it’s arrived. We talked about it for a long time but it’s here now.

And you talked about if it’s going to work we need to be able to hold hands with one another and I hear often the conversation that Auckland is diverse and I hear people kind of celebrating that. I don’t really think it’s something to celebrate because here’s my challenge with it. We’re diverse in that there are many different communities but they are separate and distinct communities. If I wasn’t a pretty ordinary but enthusiastic cricketer I wouldn’t have Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi mates who I hang out with. So yeah we’re diverse but we live in very different communities in my experience and opinion, and you know what I think that’s actually been getting worse in recent years.

Well, we are a very young country. That’s the first issue we’re still trying to develop our national identity. We are a bicultural country and that sets us apart from others. I think if you look back at in terms of who you know who’s settled in Auckland over the last century and if you look at the Pacific community, so when Pacific people first arrive they were living in places like Ponsonby and Grey Lynn for some time and that’s for a reason. Naturally communities are going to gather together for a while and that’s generally the next generation that starts to branch out. So I don’t know how long ago you’d look back to see how many Pacific men were in the Auckland team for instance, and how many in the All Blacks, and so it’s happened without our Pacific young men.

And you’re right because I mean it’s if we can look at that example and much as I’m not a massive fan of forever looking to sport for New Zealand and Auckland cultural comparisons. So was it Bryan Williams the first Samoan All Black, and he’s not an old man now I see Bryan walking around Cox’s Creek putting the flags out still and he made the stand for the gay rugby team to be part of Ponsonby, his club. Now him the first Samoan All Black, now try and imagine any rugby team in Auckland without a huge Pacific Island and context, yeah okay so that’s, is that one generation?

That’s an easy example. One two generations and I mean in my own family we’ve got five generations living at the same time which is incredible. When I kind of stand back to think about it and that kind of ages me too. So what I’m really saying is yes you know communities do stay together. There’s a reason for that and it could be that the culture here is completely different to the culture that they’ve been used to. They’re trying to offer may come and they work. They’ve come here, they’ve chosen, there’s a dream they’ve chosen Auckland and I think it’s important to establish that generally people that chose to leave their home countries and settle elsewhere, generally it’s a city that attracts them. So Auckland is New Zealand city of migration. There’s no doubt about that whatsoever. And so people have chosen Auckland and New Zealand just happens to be part of that, if you like if you turn it upside down.

It’s going to be popular for someone who can’t say Tamaki Makaurau, isn’t it?

I mean that’s the evidence shows us that that’s what happens. Auckland is a gateway, it’s a settling point. Communities have been settling in here for a long time.

When you say city of migration then, I can also hear you say city of attraction right? Here’s my next issue with it then. So Committee for Auckland and you wanting to make it better for all. You’ve already been really clear to say it ain’t for a bunch of all and let’s look at these new migrants who want to be new Kiwis. We attract them deliberately. How do we treat them when they get, how are we going with that, how’s the Super City doing for them?

I think it’s varied. I think there are some communities that settle fast and settle really well if they’ve got there’s already an established community. Those from countries that we may not have had a lot to do with or were exposed to do find it difficult to integrate. Sometimes we’re not that generous in terms of, we may be very good at settling people but not at integrating them into the labour market into the political system, socially. So for me, it really is a matter of let’s look at our past and see what we haven’t done so well and improved on that.

When you look to the past, what do you see on how well we did? What have we not done so well that we can learn a lesson from?

Well I don’t think we’d ever learn this lesson again but I think the dawn raids that happened in Auckland, across Auckland, has was at the time very, very damaging for the Pacific community and within my own family as well. New Zealand born, you know, first generation being asked for their passports which they didn’t have because they never went anywhere. And so I think that itself is a big, big lesson.

Let’s just freeze that for a moment. Can you explain to me a context of, so a New Zealand born right, what’s that, is that second generation? Right? Samoan or Pacifica or Aucklander. A dawn raid that asked for their passport, can you talk me through what happened?

Well I think people were invited to come in to help in the labour market and a lot of people came from the Pacific Islands to do exactly that. Then things, the economy started to fall off and for the first time Auckland and New Zealand were experiencing unemployment in large numbers and it was quite devastating.

What sort of year are we talking about?

I think from memory we’re talking 70s. Yeah. You know oil crises. And I’m not sure whether we were still having price freezes in those days, were we? Mr Muldoon, our Prime Minister. So anyhow for the first time for a long time there was high unemployment, and for good or for bad, there was a decision made or taken that there were people that shouldn’t be in New Zealand, in Auckland, and ‘overstayers’ is probably not a term that we hear much of these days, and the government decided that they would find the overstayers and send them back to their country of origin. So I guess the lesson there is that if we do invite people in to our city, our country is to ensure the sustainability of that invitation to come, and why people are coming so that they can be here, be good citizens, and remain and contribute to the country.

If we’re going to learn the lessons of what we haven’t done so well in the past. Let’s talk through, because I know, for example my daughter in her early 20s didn’t live through the dawn raids doesn’t know what it is. I have some memory of it being aged but so what happened? The dawn raids were a government ministry the Crown getting together squads of people that would raid houses at dawn. What happened?

There was a lot of door knocking. Obviously dawn raids as because the raids happened at dawn for many, knocking on the door and asking people to provide identification of who they were and whether or not they should be in the country at that particular time.

And if you’re a born bred Auckland and you haven’t travelled you might not have a passport right so you don’t have that.

That’s right. So you know a very odd time and I think that it was a very unusual experience for everyone. I don’t mean just for Pacific people but I think you know New Zealand doesn’t Aucklanders were sort of taken aback by the approach that was taken at the time. So for me, it really is important that when we invite people to our city, to our country, that we do welcome them that we do help with settlement where necessary that we do integrate people into the labour market. If you’ve got a group of young people that have no opportunity to work that gives rise generally to social problems. What do young people do during the day or evening if they have no work to go to. So I think the fundamentals of life need to be thought about, offered as employers. We need to think beyond hiring people that look the same as us or have the same culture. We have to be brave and we have to look at, you know, what does the opportunity, what are the opportunities in front of us if we decide to employ somebody that’s connected with a different country, that’s got a different culture, that they may be opportunities to leverage off that, for instance, and have new and fresh ideas come into your organization. It does take a little bit of work at time to be able to ensure that the person is, I guess, a term might be safe in the workplace if they’re the only person from that particular country.

What sort of work does it does it take? So, what I like around the whole idea of us having these conversations at The Spinoff and For Auckland is it’s a very civic conversation. When when I hear the things you’re talking about of integrating people and ensuring that they’re supported in the work environment, I kind of think of talkback and people going “ah the gummint, the gummint will do it. Get the government to do it.” “Shouldn’t council be doing that right?” And that’s not what you’re saying is it?

No, that’s not my belief either. It’s really up to us if we want things to happen, if we want things to happen well, we need to examine our practices and what we do and what, think about what our contribution could look like. It’s very much what I discovered when I was chairing Omega which was a service set up to help very highly qualified new migrants find work that were equivalent to the qualification.

This is a while ago isn’t it? Sorry I don’t mean to be rude.

That’s a while ago. Yes it is. Well I’m getting a bit old. But the lesson there was that people were highly skilled highly qualified really willing and able to contribute to Auckland and to New Zealand, and what one of the most crucial things was to get them a dose of Kiwism if you like. What’s it like, actually what’s our language like? What we really mean when we say these unusual things? I’m trying to think of something. What’s something Giles? What’s ‘she’ll be right’? Is it about me and my, you know, is about I’m okay or you’re okay. So that context and I think that..

No worries. All Good.

Exactly. So I think some of that can be very confronting or difficult or curious or unusual for people whose English is their second language. And so those are the sort of things that actually, believe it or not, make a difference to people in terms of just take a minute, just a second to explain what you’ve just said or what you’ve just done or why it is that you have a karakia before you eat, or why it is this, or why it is that. So for me it’s very much about generosity, it’s about including. We all came to this city and to this country at some point, you know, we’re all migrants and think about that journey. Think about our tupuna who decided to brave that ocean and or whether it’s in the air these days in a plane and come here and realise the dream because really for my family it is, you know, we honour our grandparents who, both migrants, in terms of they worked hard for us to have what they considered would be a better and different life. Now it hasn’t worked for all my family but it certainly has worked for some of us. So some of us that it has worked for we are in a position of obligation and responsibility to ensure that we assist those in our whanau that haven’t quite realised the dream yet.

So here’s what I sit with when I meet someone who is clearly very different from me, right? Different skin colour, different way of dressing, different language, different intonation, different body language. Two things happen for me. One is, I become really aware of the difference and that I don’t know how to do this and then I get fear and then I get suspicion and fear and suspicion lead to me being like nah this is too uncomfortable. I don’t, you know nah.

Too hard? Too uncomfortable?

I’m at home. Learn my bloody ways, would you?

And there are two ways to look at that. You know one is that obviously you should examine yourself and think am I a good person? Secondly, in terms of my career, often I’ve been the only person that maybe looks like me in a large room and I have kind of gone to the bathroom, had a good talk to myself and said it’s really important that you talk to, you know, X number of people in this room before you leave. And I would take a deep breath and get out there and talk to people.

What are you having to overcome to, when you’re having that conversation with yourself, right? What are you having to overcome to get out there and do that?

I think we all think that either maybe other people that are not like us, first of all there might be rejection. You know, it’s really uncomfortable if you go and say hello to someone and they don’t respond back to you. Secondly, what have you got in common that you can talk to them about? Is there anything? You know they’ve got a completely different background. So what do I say? But my experience has been generally positive that people welcome the opportunity to have a conversation with somebody that doesn’t look like them, someone that doesn’t come from where they’ve come from or have that background, and so at the end of it you know I’ve got a buzz out of talking to people that are different and hopefully they’ve got the same buzz.

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Let me acknowledge for a moment your success within that, and I really appreciate you telling that story Pauline because, the woman that I meet, you are a leader in our city and a woman of influence across multiple sectors, and I look back, you know way back, 1997 you were Pacific Business Person of the year and you’ve only carried on. Now it’s fascinating to me that you had to put on your big girl boots and go out to have a networking conversation and that you found it so hard and yet you were so successful.

For me and I suppose it’s indicative of my generation. There were not very many Pacific Māori women in the building industry for instance, which was my first real career. And so, therefore, I had to think about the impact of that and what I needed to do to ensure that I had a voice, that I had influence, that I could return to the shareholders of that company what they wanted. And so with that in mind, those are the things that drove me the reason for, there was no reason for me not to be the only woman regional manager in that organization at all. Absolutely none. And so, therefore, and some of it was I had to prove that a) I could do it which I knew I could but b) also leave the door open for other women to follow in my footsteps which I’ve also done. So for me it was that reciprocity, it’s that generosity. It’s not all about me. It’s about how you do. If you’re in a position of responsibility or dare I say it, power, it is really, really important that you multiply those opportunities for others that just simply they may have the skill they may have the desire but the opportunity just has not opened for them. So for me I’m always looking for the opportunities to gift to others because I think that’s really, really important.

Pauline this has been a conversation that has been very civic. And to summarize and to look back on a couple of key points, I need to take a look at myself and if I’m a good person and actually be aware that I do come from suspicion and fear of difference. If I look in a city conversation, the win for me is a thriving city where if I can shift my own fears and anxiety and suspicion a bit there are gonna be more people like you and of different generations coming forward who similarly to you will open up the opportunities for our city to thrive, right? So I’ve got the takeaway to go and examine myself, I think was your directive. Closing thought for this to be a civic conversation of the better Auckland for all. And I love the idea that yes a city of migration but also understand that we’re a city of attraction and it’s up to me to decide what we’ve attracted you knowingly. What am I then obliged to do?

I think that we do all need to examine ourselves and our own particular journey and where we are in this great city and how we encourage others to participate fully and give people opportunities to participate in the life, the economy, the social fabric, every part of society across Auckland and New Zealand. And if we don’t get it right then we will have big problems going forward. And it’s not hard. I firmly believe and we don’t need big money spent on things necessarily. If each and every one of us does our part to welcome in new people across the city and to allow them to have their voice, and Auckland is a far different place to what it was 10 years ago, and when you kindly say that I’m a leader for Auckland, I doubt whether, you know, many many communities across Auckland would even know who I am. So that’s our issue, is the, are uncomfortable ourselves in terms of our changing city or are the communities that are changing our cities. Are they uncomfortable with us? And who is us and who is them and how do we make sure that it is just that us and we don’t have to be homogenised for that to happen. We can keep our unique identities and we can be a world leader in how cities of migration can get things right and to realise the dreams of those that have come here today, yesterday and further back.


For Auckland is a new Spinoff podcast of civic conversations with people working to create and sustain a better Auckland for all. Hosted by Timothy Giles of the Committee for Auckland, produced by The Spinoff.

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