28_ Auckland is an emerging international city and is fast developing a reputation for the quality of life it offers its residents.
29_ Auckland has a natural environment that few other cities can match. Its beaches, islands, harbours, waterways, volcanoes, lush forests and productive rural areas offer a superb combination of physical beauty, recreational opportunity, economic significance and cultural identity.
30_ Our mild climate allows us to enjoy this environment and participate in outdoor recreational activities all year round. This lifestyle – organised sport, swimming, bush walks or picnicking in the park – is integral to Auckland’s sense of identity.
31_ Since the arrival of tangata whenua many centuries ago, this environment and the opportunities it affords has attracted people from around the world to our shores. The makeup of our population has been transformed, and our sense of identity has evolved with it. By some counts we now rank amongst the most multicultural cities in the world, with 37% of Aucklanders coming from overseas (2006 figures).
32_ Whilst the rich diversity of our people is a source of pride, Māori hold a special place in our identity. The Treaty of Waitangi underpins many aspects of public life in the city. Through the treaty settlement process and subsequent partnership agreements, local iwi are playing a more prominent role in shaping Auckland’s development, and are emerging as economic powerhouses in their own right. Less formally, traditions such as haka are increasingly recognised world-wide, and spark an interest in authentic Māori cultural experiences that many international visitors seek to satisfy upon their arrival in Auckland.
33_ Our ethnic groups make valuable contributions to life in Auckland. Pacific peoples, for example, are prominent in high-profile sectors such as sports and the arts, and they provide economic and trading links to the Pacific Island nations. Our status as the world’s largest Polynesian city is a key aspect of our identity.
Since the arrival of tangata whenua many centuries ago, this environment and the opportunities it affords has attracted people from around the world to our shores.
34_ Our diverse and growing Asian communities have revitalised whole neighbourhoods and provided a wide range of experiences (food, arts, festivals) that have become part of life in Auckland. Their business connections have strengthened our international focus – which is critical to Auckland’s future success.
35_ By global standards Auckland is still a relatively small, comparatively young city, both in terms of the age profile of its population and the history of its development. Aucklanders are proud of our urbanity, our cosmopolitan population, and our many and varied restaurants, cultural events, theatres and galleries. Auckland’s youthfulness and rapid growth have contributed to the energetic atmosphere in parts of the city that is more typical of dynamic cities of the Asia Pacific, such as Sydney, Brisbane, and Singapore, than other New Zealand centres. At the same time our relationship with the rest of New Zealand is characterised by economic interdependence and friendly rivalry.
36_ Despite its rapid growth in recent years, Auckland retains the feel of a collection of villages, each with its own distinctive characteristics. This tells of our heritage.
37_ Many Aucklanders still value the egalitarian principles that our city and country were founded upon. However, in recent years there has been an alarming growth in inequality and the concentration of highly deprived communities in some parts of Auckland. Addressing inequalities is a major focus of the Auckland Plan. Nevertheless, we still view ourselves as a classless society, and have a degree of access to decision makers and figures of authority that is often not possible in larger cities. This brings an immediacy to local democracy that is often evidenced by the vigorous debate of issues of importance to the community.
38_ Proof of the strength of the shared values of Aucklanders and the relative intimacy of life here (compared to larger cities elsewhere), is that the rapid transformation in the demographic composition of Auckland’s population, in less than a generation, has given rise to few incidents of social unrest. Although some migrants, particularly those from a non-English speaking background, can feel isolated and struggle to adapt to life in Auckland, research has shown that most feel welcome here and settle well2. This demonstrates the decency and commonsense of most Aucklanders, both native-born and immigrant. It shows that a common set of values binds us as people. It augurs well for the future of our city, as we strive to achieve our vision as the world’s most liveable city.
39_ Auckland’s climate, geographical, cultural and historical character are unique. It offers:
- a city with islands and a varied marine environment
- a green rural land mass in easy reach of the city
- a temperate climate in a southerly location
- the heritage of tangata whenua
- a diverse city of immigrants with multiple homelands and cultural endowments
- the central hub for the South Pacific islands
- an English-speaking, multi-lingual society set in the Asia Pacific region
- law-abiding, just, progressive social mores
- a highly educated, innovative, creative, and ingenious population
- a stable, open, and mature democracy.
It is this blend that makes Auckland distinctive.