Migrants Give Auckland an Edge over Other Cities: Heather Shotter

July 28th, 2014

Heather-Shotter_300x200Heather Shotter is executive director of the Committee for Auckland and was a participant at the 2014 Cities of Migration Conference in Berlin.

As we become more globally connected, more than half the world lives in cities which are becoming more ethnically diverse.

Immigrants overwhelmingly choose to migrate to cities because that’s where opportunities exist on a large scale. Cities feel urbanization and immigration profoundly.

They can be contentious policy issues at national level. But at city level, they are lived realities.

Having listened to many great examples from speakers from around the globe at the Cities of Migration conference in Berlin [June 4-6, 2014], I am convinced Auckland – with more than 40 per cent of our population born overseas and 12-14 per cent of children born to immigrants – has a huge competitive advantage over other cities.

As one of the most migrant-rich cities in the world, we must court diversity to build on our strength, vitality and innovation. But the growing negative conversation around migrants in this country is threatening the very positive progress as we grow.

The future growth of Auckland depends on migrants and the skills they bring here.

Migrants bring new values and energy to a city. They bring connections to the cities they come from. At an individual level, ethnic entrepreneurs can exploit diasporas to open up international markets. A more diverse population can drive the development of new goods and services and a more diverse urban environment can help attract a creative class of skilled, liberally minded employees. Auckland will continue to grow and become more diverse.

We need to make the most of our expanding population by capturing the benefits of diversity. The fact we’ve got very skilled people wanting to come to Auckland to provide us with the skills we need is a really competitive advantage on the world stage.

The successes shared at the conference are important for Auckland to hear for a compelling reason. When integration is done well, it fuels economic growth, spurs innovation and talent renewal, creates new knowledge and promotes an open, richer and more inclusive social fabric.

We need to be able to take these diverse communities and their entrepreneurial spirit and capital skills to create better understanding and to make better connections.

We must work collaboratively towards an entrepreneurial and innovative culture in Auckland – one which promotes migrant integration as an effective strategy for inclusion and urban prosperity to benefit all New Zealanders.

If Auckland doesn’t take heed and embrace programs that encourage ethnic and cultural diversity we will have lost a massive opportunity.

This article was first published in The New Zealand Herald on July 24, 2014.

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