The diversity dividend

DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR PAUL SPOONLEY - Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Migration is changing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Aotearoa. Policy-makers and planners also need to consider population ageing, changing fertility patterns and urban growth when looking to the future.

Today’s Aotearoa New Zealand is a superdiverse society. Immigration levels are at an all-time high, with the two largest groups of newcomers arriving from China and India. In 2016, more than a quarter of New Zealanders were born in another country. More than 220 different ethnic groups now live in New Zealand, nearly a quarter of people living in Auckland are Asian, and by 2020, the Asian population of New Zealand will overtake the Māori population in size.

A team from Massey is helping to identify how New Zealand can better prepare for—and respond to—these demographic changes and maximise the benefits associated with an increasingly diverse population. The team is led by Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, one of New Zealand’s leading academics and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Professor Spoonley has led numerous externally funded research programmes, including the Ministry of Science and Innovation’s Integration of Immigrants and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Nga Tangata Oho Mairangi: Regional Impacts of Demographic and Economic Change.

Also part of the research programme Capturing the Diversity Dividend of Aotearoa/New Zealand (CaDDANZ, pronounced “cadence”) are teams from the University of Waikato and Motu Economic and Public Policy Research in Wellington.

CaDDANZ is funded by MBIE, which has awarded the project a gold rating—one of just 25 MBIE-funded projects out of 203 to achieve the rating in 2016. Massey has an eight-strong CaDDANZ team: Professor Spoonley; Associate Professor Robin Peace, an evaluation expert with extensive experience of government and policy; Dr Junjia Ye, who has come to Massey from the Max Planck Institute and was a key researcher on the GlobaldiverCities project; Professor Natalie Jackson, New Zealand’s leading demographer, who is contributing to the modelling and visualisation of the data; Associate Professor Malakai Koloamatangi, the Director of the Pāsifika Directorate at Massey; Senior Research Officer Dr Jessica Terruhn; Research Officer Dr Behnam Soltani; and Administrator Julie Taylor.

What are the key trends, what can we expect in the future, and how will New Zealanders, including immigrants, understand and experience these changes? What are their hopes and desires?


Human capital and vibrancy

Professor Spoonley says research indicates there are a range of economic and social benefits from diversity, from the economic innovation associated with immigrant entrepreneurialism to exposure to new values, practices, institutions, foods, languages and world views.

“It is possible to quantify the commercial and economic outcomes for a country or a city,” he says.

“Immigrants contribute more in terms of tax or new economic activity than they generate in terms of costs. They contribute significantly to the human capital available to employers in New Zealand. And they add to the vibrancy and attractiveness of cities or the country as a whole.”

CaDDANZ comprises 20 projects that measure, map and analyse the societal impacts of diversity and the implications of demographic change for businesses, households and communities. A significant component of the research is an analysis of the implications of diversity for Māori, and how Māori engage with diversity.

Professor Spoonley says CaDDANZ is contributing to a new understanding of the significant economic and social transformations New Zealand is experiencing.

“The research models what will happen nationally and in terms of particular regions and centres. What are the key trends, what can we expect in the future, and how will New Zealanders, including immigrants, understand and experience these changes? What are their hopes and desires?”


Seven projects

The Massey team is responsible for seven of the CaDDANZ projects, and has started work on four of these. Using qualitative research methods and evaluations, they are examining the effects of migration-related change and how institutions contribute to the government’s diversity policies and its support of migrants.

One of these projects, Commonplace Diversity through Urban Encounters, records how diverse groups interact and use public spaces in heterogeneous urban neighbourhoods. Focusing on the Auckland suburbs of Avondale and Northcote, the team is investigating how everyday interactions impact on how difference is understood, negotiated and contested.

Another project explores what diversity means for secondary schools. The team is examining how school policies and practices shape students’ experiences and understandings of diversity and their sense of belonging, inclusion and community. The research is conducted at one Auckland and one Wellington school, chosen because their student bodies reflect the growing diversity of the cities in which they are situated.

The Massey team has helped write the new diversity policy for the New Zealand Police. It also organises an annual, MBIE-funded conference on immigration that focuses on current demographic research and the policy implications.

The three other projects on which Massey will work are social cohesion opportunities through space-place integration initiatives; a meta-evaluation of government diversity initiatives; and collecting stories from members of the public about their experiences of diversity.



In 2014, Massey signed a memorandum of understanding with the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity to contribute to international understanding of superdiversity. The German institute initiated a major research project that explores diversity in immigrant destination cities; Auckland became the fourth city in the GlobaldiverCities project alongside New York, Singapore and Johannesburg.

“New Zealand, and particularly Auckland, has undergone a very rapid and dramatic change in terms of diversity, largely driven by very high levels of inward and net migration,” Professor Spoonley says.

“This has resulted in very different geo-political connections, moving the social and economic connections from Europe to Asia. It has significantly changed the ethnic demography of New Zealand, and immigration is now a major contributor to population and economic growth. Younger New Zealanders are growing up with this multiculturalism and see it as a normal part of everyday life, and that’s a very positive step.”

Project details

Funders Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
Dates 2014 to 2020