Auckland, New Zealand

Unlocking Auckland’s Diversity

Immigration New Zealand, Department of Labour

October 1, 2012

Moving newcomer integration to the forefront of Auckland’s future

In November 2010, the new City of Auckland emerged as seven authorities from the greater metropolitan area were consolidated into one unitary body, the Auckland Council, making it the largest local government reform in Australasia. These sweeping changes are grounded in the Mayor’s vision of Auckland moving up in the ranks of the world’s Top 10 Most Liveable Cities — and in the hearts of all Aucklanders.

A large part of Auckland’s liveability is its diversity: 37% of Aucklanders and 46% of its working age population were born overseas. The city is the gateway to New Zealand and the place where most international newcomers, both immigrants and refugees, settle. The “world” at Auckland’s door has propelled the settlement and diversity agenda and its impact on the economy to the fore.


Auckland is a medium-sized Asia Pacific city of just under 1.5 million people with a growing population that comes increasingly from source countries in the Asia Pacific region and less from traditional northern European countries. Auckland is well-prepared to harness the potential within the city’s diversity.

Launched in 2007, before the region’s amalgamation, the Auckland Regional Settlement Strategy (ARSS) is the city’s primary vehicle for jointly working on settlement issues, and now plays an important role in supporting Auckland Council’s vision for a liveable city. Developed by the Auckland Sustainable Cities Program, the strategy identifies opportunities and makes recommendations for various agencies and non-government organizations to better support international newcomers to settle and contribute to New Zealand’s prosperity.

“Auckland will be an inclusive place of opportunity for all,” says Mayor Len Brown, initiating the Strategy’s first action plan. The yearly plans integrate multiple agendas, including economic development, settlement, diversity, and social development, to provide a unified working platform for the city’s agencies, sectors and communities.

New Ideas

The ARSS is the result of a comprehensive and inclusive engagement process that brought together migrant and refugee community representatives, local stakeholders, non-government organizations and business representatives to inform and strengthen the city’s commitment to change.

Central to the ethos of the ARSS is a long term perspective that builds on existing settlement work while incorporating the principles of sustainable development; its quadruple bottom-line framework includes a focus on environmental, economic, social and cultural settlement outcomes. To develop a more coordinated approach to settlement policies and programs, the strategy brought the New Zealand Government on board and signed up key government agencies. The joint leadership of two levels of government provides explicit acknowledgment that integration is a two-way process between existing communities and international newcomers.

With the central government on board as a key stakeholder, the strategy could be embedded in both national and regional economic and social agendas, emphasizing labour market integration as well as community connectedness. ARSS also aims to reduce duplication of services, to help programs and agencies become more effective and to foster innovation across a range of players while ensuring services remain relevant and current.

Managing the challenge

Despite initial growth in the number of integration activities underway at regional, district and local levels, by 2009 the ARSS was losing traction in Auckland’s fast changing environment, triggering an implementation review. Determined to get it right, the strategy’s governance group overhauled its plan to instigate cross-cutting ways of working together, including improvements to support collaborative behaviours and new cross cutting delivery platforms.

The resulting Settlement Action Leadership Teams (SALTS) were formed to improve economic, community and public sector service delivery outcomes. The Economic SALT, for example, has two immediate priorities and key messages: Auckland’s businesses are ready for migrant employees, and migrants are ready for workplaces in a new country.

Other priority areas include building community connectedness between newcomers and host communities and bringing together government agencies and sectors to focus on improvements to Auckland’s public sector service delivery.


The ARSS is midstream in the implementation of its 2009-2014 plan and has already achieved 30 milestones. The strategy has attracted over 50 partners covering all sectors (government, NGOs and community networks). Successful projects include developing cultural awareness training; preparing a downloadable guide on how to stage events and encourage the participation of newcomers in civic and community life; and establishing the Auckland Refugee Community Coalition to provide a collective refugee voice.

Making it Work for You:

  • Keep the project aligned and crucial to the individual and collective interests of participants, so as to keep people around the table
  • Balance agility with cohesion; activities need to not only keep abreast with government policy, but also integrated with other related activities to drive a wider outcome
  • Building a stronger settlement knowledge base and monitoring is essential