Love and loathing in Aotearoa

By Alice Neville

They love our clean, green image but are baffled by our tax laws – a comprehensive survey of migrants has revealed for the first time what new Kiwis like and loathe about Aotearoa.

The survey, carried out by the Department of Labour and Statistics New Zealand, is the biggest of its kind, tracking 7000 people over their first three years here.

About one in four migrants had experienced at least one incident of discrimination.

Those from Asia and in the “other” category were most likely to have experienced it in a public place or work setting.

“I guess that points to the fact that we still, as a country, have a way to go as far as really embracing the fact that people come from different backgrounds,” said Dr Mary Dawson, executive director of the Auckland Regional Migrant Services (ARMS).

The survey breaks migrants down into those from the UK and Ireland, North Asia (China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, etc), South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc), South East Asia, North America, South Africa, rest of Europe, Pacific and “other”.

The first report, based on the six-month interviews, reveals 87 per cent felt settled in New Zealand, and 93 per cent were satisfied with life here.

Almost all had established new friendships. More than half settled in Auckland, 13 per cent go to Canterbury, 11 per cent to Wellington and 6 per cent to the Waikato.

More than two-thirds were employed and only 4 per cent were looking for work.

Some 62 per cent reported no difficulty in finding a job but the most common problem was a lack of New Zealand work experience.

Migrants’ median income was $36,000, and 30 per cent reported feeling like they didn’t have enough money to meet the cost of living in New Zealand.

Initial findings for the 18-month interviews show increasing signs of long-term settlement, such as property-owning.

Employment levels also rose, particularly among secondary migrants, who are usually spouses and family members of migrants who arrived under the skilled worker category.

Dawson said the research provided valuable information for the charitable trust, which offers a range of services to new migrants. “It gives us good pointers, but here might be a need for more detail.”

But Dawson said reports of discrimination had fallen since ARMS was established in 2002.

“It’s possible that in Auckland there’s now a greater appreciation that businesses can benefit from diverse, skilled migrants with experience from other countries. Research tells us that the economic benefits migrants bring to New Zealand is in the range of $3.3 billion.”

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett also reported an improvement in the attitude of members since the organisation started working with migrants seven years ago.

“The welcome mat seemed to [stop at] the airport gate, then they were left on their own,” he said. “It was hugely frustrating.”

With the help of the Government, the chamber established the New Kiwis job website. “Since then we’ve probably placed in excess of 5000 new Kiwis across New Zealand,” said Barnett.

“Our prosperity depends on making sure people who come here settle and are absorbed into the workforce.”

Landing a job proves tough

Vikesh Doolaub migrated from Mauritius with his wife and three children in April and his experience has been largely positive.

“The only problem is finding a job,” said the 36-year-old, who arrived under the skilled migrant category.

Doolaub has eight years of IT experience but is finding himself up against 50 to100 other applicants when he applies for jobs.

“I think the employers are giving priority to the people who have New zealand experience.

“The problem is if nobody’s willing to give me a job, how can I get New Zealand experience?”

Doolaub also worked as a policeman in Mauritius for 11 years and will consider applying for the New Zealand force if he can’t find a job in the IT sector.

If that fails, he and his family may return. “In Mauritius I had a very nice job, but I came here for new challenges and to broaden my IT skills.”

Despite employment difficulties, Doolaub says his family is settled on Auckland’s North Shore.

The keen soccer player has made friends through the Greenhithe over-30 team and has had help from Auckland Regional Migrant Services, where he is volunteering, and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, which offers advice on job-hunting.

Age is no barrier in ‘paradise’

He might be 68, but Joseph Netto has no intention of retiring. Netto, who migrated from India three months ago under the family parent category, has two children working in the aviation industry in New Zealand.

After 33 years as an in-flight services manager for Air India, he planned to start his own business here and began a small-business course. But he ended up working at a Shell service station, which he loves.

New Zealand is “a paradise” he says. Netto is renting a house in Hillsborough with his youngest daughter, and hopes to buy his own place once the family home in Mumbai is sold. His wife will join them once the sale goes through.

Netto says his success in the job market is down to Auckland Regional Migrant Services and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

His age wasn’t a barrier to getting a job, and in his interview with Shell was asked only why he still wanted to work. “I said I’ve got the energy and the company will benefit from the experience I bring. My transparency and being able to relate to others are my key points,” he says.

“They thought they were pluses, and on the same day offered me the job.”