Absence of Chinatown relegates Auckland

A Massey University study has identified Dominion Road in Central Auckland as a potential Chinatown tourist attraction.

A Report accompanying the Study said the absence of such a facility kept Auckland out of the league of most other multicultural cities in Australia, Canada and the US in supporting migrant entrepreneurial activity.

“Such a lacuna has resulted in lost business opportunities. The ‘niche management’ and promotion of ethnic spaces and precincts has not happened in Auckland where reluctance to see ethnic precincts as civic assets.”

Professor Paul Spoonley, Research Director at the University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences conducted the Study for Auckland City Council along with his colleagues Associate Professor Robin Peace, Trudie Cain and Dr Carina Meares.

The study, called, Halfway House: the Dominion Road Ethnic Precinct, assessed the contemporary character of two sections of area.

It is an iconic street with the longest straight stretch of road on the Auckland isthmus extending almost six kilometres from Mt Eden through Balmoral to Mt Roskill, the Report said.

Professor Spoonley said the Study title captured the ‘Halfway House’ reference in the Mutton Birds’ 1993 hit song Dominion Road.

“Dominion Road has become a distinct ethnic precinct over the past 20 years and presents an opportunity to the Council for social and economic development with migrant communities. The Council should engage more with such communities and include them in its plans,” he said.

Migrant rendezvous

The Study found that Asian migrants owned 78% of food shops and restaurants along the Balmoral-Kensington Avenue, of which the Chinese accounted for 51%.

“Only 14% of such shops were European owned. Between King Street and Valley Road, nearly half of businesses are Asian,” it said.

According to the Study, Dominion Road represented much more than just a place to shop. These areas help new migrants maintain their cultural identities by speaking a native language, eating familiar foods and meeting with others born in their homeland.

“The evolution and growth of identifiable ethnic precincts on Dominion Road poses social and economic policy challenges both to the Auckland Council and Central Government,” the Report said.

The State of the City Report (2010) of the Council and its 10-year plan for 2009-2019 “barely mentioned ethnic diversity and offered no strategies or opportunities for immigrant communities’ engagement in social and economic development.”

According to Professor Spoonley, some non-Asian residents felt that ethnic shopping had a negative impact on the area.

But such shops were still a ‘place of contact’ and “a site of everybody multiculturalism in the 21st Century Auckland,” he said.

He recommended more research was needed to determine how well immigrant and non-immigrant consumers interact and understand each other, and to canvas support for Chinatown branding,

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