Listening to Local Leadership in Auckland: Mayor Len Brown

November 22nd, 2011

As part of our Good Ideas from Successful Cities: Municipal Leadership on Immigrant Integration, we are asking mayors and city leaders for their views on immigration, local initiatives and future plans.

Len Brown
Mayor of Auckland

Why is immigration important to Auckland?

I have a vision for Auckland of making it the world’s most liveable city, and our migrants are a vital part of that. I want Auckland to be an inclusive city, where every community is recognized and respected.

Auckland is home to more than 180 ethnicities, and is the largest Pasifika city in the world. We are a nation and a city of migrants – be it from the great Maori migratory voyages across the Pacific, our European colonial forbears to more recent arrivals from around New Zealand and the world.

We value the diversity our migrants bring to Auckland. It helps us build relationships with the rest of the world, and gives us a vibrant, rich cultural life.

Our new Aucklanders come here with a positive spirit – to get a new life, a job, an education, start a new business, or to find freedom. Our diversity and that positive spirit is the wellspring of our future prosperity. We are proud that our migrants have chosen Auckland.

What is your city’s most successful immigration integration initiative to date?

Auckland is a newly-amalgamated city. We have inherited the relationships of our legacy councils and are forging our own new relationships with migrant agencies and advocates. We are reviewing our programmes, to see which work well, and are initiating news ones where needed.

Amongst the initiatives we have are the Pacific People’s Advisory Panel and the Ethnic People’s Advisory Panel, which give voice to a diverse range of communities. These panels identify and communicate the preferences of the Pacific and ethnic communities across Auckland, and advise us how to best engage with these communities in relation to council strategies, policies, plans and bylaws.

In addition, the panels also provide representation to the joint Social Policy Forum. The forum has been set up to ensure that Auckland Council and central government work closer together on shared social sector issues and solutions. These issues include those faced by migrant and refugee communities in Auckland.

We are setting up specific ethnic workshops for different communities, where members of the community have the opportunity to provide feedback on the Auckland Plan, the blueprint for the future development of Auckland over the next 30 years.

Auckland is part of an Inter-Agency Regional Migrant Settlement Policy, supporting and working closely with agencies which help new arrivals enter the workforce, communicate and get by in their new home, find and access the information and resources they need to establish themselves here, and encourage participation in local activities.

When we all work in harmony, identifying issues, allocating resources and aligning outcomes, we can do so much more. This coordination is crucial for our new arrivals.

Our libraries provide learning environments for local communities, as a first point of contact for information and a community hub. Local libraries respond to local needs, developing community language collections, calendars of events and projects, and partnerships with community groups, while our Citizens’ Advice Bureaux provide information for migrants in a number of languages.

We support an exciting calendar of cultural events, such as Diwali, the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival, Pasifika (the largest celebration of Pasifika culture in the world), Vaisahki, and our annual International Cultural Festival.

What is next on your city for immigrant integration?

We are currently forging the blueprint for the next 30 years of Auckland’s future. The Auckland Plan covers not only not only our built and natural environments, but the cultural, social and community well-being of our city.

The draft plan explicitly includes a number of directives aimed at improving life for migrant and refugee communities. These include promoting inclusion, reducing discrimination, and removing barriers to opportunity and participation. It encourages the ongoing support of community events and cultural festivals to reflect diversity of the cultures in Auckland, and also recognises the need of Pasifika and minority ethnic communities to have safe, affordable, healthy and sustainable housing, which meets their specific needs.

We are asking all Aucklanders to let us know what they think of the Auckland Plan, and how we can improve it to help this city reach its potential as an inclusive and engaged community where everybody feels they belong.

Len Brown is the first Mayor of the Auckland Council. He studied arts and law at Auckland University before joining the Auckland law firm Wynyard Wood, where he became a partner. He also co-founded the Howick Free Legal Service. Len entered politics in 1992, when he was first elected to the Manukau City Council. He was elected the mayor of Manukau in 2007. After the government decision to merge Auckland’s eight previous councils, Len stood as Mayor of the new Auckland in 2010.

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