Volume 79 1970 > Volume 79, No. 4 > Polynesians and residential concentration in Auckland, by P. H. Curson, p 421 - 432
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Since the Second World War and more particularly since the mid 1950s there has been an increasing movement of Polynesians to Auckland (Table 1.) They include Maoris from the towns and rural areas of the North Island and Pacific Islanders from the formerly New Zealand administered islands to the near north as well as numbers of Tongans, Tahitians and Fijians. The upsurge in Polynesian migration to Auckland is best illustrated by comparison with figures for 1956 when the population of the Auckland urban area was 381,063 of whom 11,361 were Maoris and 4,720 Pacific Islanders. 2 By 1966, the population of the urban area had increased to 548,293 and the Maori and Islander populations to 33,926 and 16,057 respectively. 3 Between 1956 and 1966, therefore, Pacific Islanders in Auckland increased their numbers by 240 percent at an annual average rate of increase of 13 percent. Such a rapid growth is the result of heavy migration from the economically underdeveloped territories of the South-west Pacific, supplemented by high natural rates of increase in Auckland. Ever since Islanders began migrating to New Zealand their main destination points have been the Auckland urban area and to a lesser extent other urban centres of the Auckland and Wellington Provinces. With the exception of Maoris, a far larger proportion of each of New Zealand's Polynesian minority groups is located in Auckland than is the case for Europeans (Table 2). Significantly, there has also been a noticeable growth in the proportion of each group found in Auckland since 1956. Despite the fact that many migrants from the islands of Polynesia are bilingual and speak English in addition to an Island dialect, they have come from a socio-economic folk background markedly different from the highly differentiated industrial and urban society of New Zealand. Faced with this transition many immigrants have initially tended to seek the company of people from their own islands and during the first years of settlement contacts with other groups appear to have been largely superficial and casual.

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  1921 1926 1936 1945 1951 1956 1961 1966
Total Island Polynesians 198 393 465 1,130 2,216 4,720 8,678 16,057
Samoans     199 430 1,020 1 2,288 4,055 7,538
Cook Islanders     33 175 711 2 1,088 2,120 4,391
Niueans     50* 141   615 1,417 2,376
Tongans         330* 583 723 969
Other Island Polynesians         100* 146 363 783
Island Polynesians in N.Z. 334 588 988 2,159 3,670 8,103 1,4340 26,721
1   estimates (no official figures available)
2   1951 figures combine Cook Islanders and Niueans

Source: NZ Census of Population and Dwellings, vol. 7, Race, 1921-66

    No. Auckland   No. New Zealand   % in Auckland
  1956 1966 1956 1966 1956 1966
Europeans 361,454 491,085 2,016,287 2,426,352 17.93 20.22
Maori 11,361 33,926 137,151 201,159 8.29 16.85
Cook Islanders 1,088 4,391 2,320 8,883 46.9 50.7
Samoans 2,288 7,538 3,740 11,842 61.18 63.5
Niueans 615 2,376 848 2,846 72.52 83.3
Tongans 583 969 1,043 1,389 55.9 69.6
Other Polynesians 146 783 278 1,531 52.5 51.2
Total Island Polynesians 4,720 16,057 8,103 26,271 58.3 61

Source: NZ Census of Population and Dwellings, vol. 7, Race, 1956 and 1966

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  Cook Islanders Niucans Tongans Other Polynesians Maoris Europeans Segregation Centrality
Samoans 16.407 25.41 29.529 20.365 31.961 36.797 38.25 36.8
Cook Islanders   20.209 32.398 23.26 32.201 42.35 43.25 44.7
Niueans     37.238 28.335 40.759 49.639 50.102 52.8
Tongans       28.354 35.668 31.872 34.15 27.1
Other Polynesians         38.691 36.378 40.9 37.8
Maori           31.202 31.65 14

Source : Calculated from NZ Census of Population and Dwellings, vol. 7, Race, 1966

  Cook Islanders Niueans Tongans Other Polynesians Maoris Europeans Segregation Centrality
Samoans 40.698 30.017 42.053 44.592 40.246 39.166 60
Cook Islanders   25.625 39.609 41.362 36.32 46.122 45.669 60.5
Niueans     45.778 47.585 47.395 61.073 59.654 73.7
Tongans       46.778 33.013 37.733 32.766 42.15
Other Polynesians         46.363 48.109 47.18 51.4
Maoris           33.72 32.194 30

Source : Calculate from NZ Census of Population and Dwellings, vol. 7, Race, 1956.

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Residential Concentration and Segregation

A number of recent studies have shown that ethnic minority groups within cities vary considerably in the degree of their residential concentration and in their segregation from each other. 4 Most of these studies concern themselves to some extent with the problems of measuring and comparing the distributional similarity of two populations. While a wide range of indexes have been developed, the most valuable and widely accepted have been derived from the Lorenzcurve. 5 Among these, the “index of dissimilarity” has perhaps gained widest acceptance, and, more recently, a derivative of this index called “the index of segregation.” 6

Polynesians in Auckland appear to conform to the general pattern of results of the above studies. All groups vary considerably in their degree of residential concentration and in their segregation from the remainder of Auckland's population as well as from one another. To illustrate these variations, indexes of dissimilarity and segregation were prepared by the writer for all Polynesian groups in Auckland.

Table 3 gives the indexes of dissimilarity and segregation calculated on census divisions for Polynesian groups in Auckland. The index of dissimilarity indicates the percentage of one population that would have to redistribute itself in order to approximate the same percentage distribution by census division as another population. Thus complete dissimilarity (that is, complete segregation between two groups) would yield the maximum value of 100 while complete similarity would yield the minimum value of 0. In a case where there were no residential concentration or segregation between two groups, there would be the same percentage of each group's total city population in each census tract. 7 The index is not without its problems as it takes into account only the differences in the proportions of two groups in each census division. Thus two groups may, in fact, have a similar proportion of their total population in a census division, yet within the division itself be completely segregated from each other; for example, Parnell which is composed of an eastern section of quality housing on elevated sites and a western portion of small, tightly-packed, decaying, pre-1914 houses inhabited by a cosmopolitan population of Pacific Islanders, Maoris and Asians. Such a spatial concentration does not show up in the index. The index of segregation indicates the degree of residential dissimilarity between any particular sub-group and the remainder of the population. From Table 3 it is apparent that Niueans, with an index of 50.1, are residentially the most segregated group in Auckland. Cook Islanders and other Polynesians follow with indexes of 43.25 and 40.9 respectively. The indexes of dissimilarity show the degree of residential segregation between one Polynesian group and another. It is evident that the degree of separation in area of residence for Europeans in Auckland is lowest with Maoris (index 31.2) and only marginally higher with Tongans (31.8), Other Polynesians (36.3) and Samoans (36.7). There is an increase to 42.3 in the index with Cook Islanders and a further rise to 49.6 with - 425 Niueans. Within the Polynesian group, the greatest degree of residential separation occurs between Niueans and Tongans (37.238), and Cook Islanders and Tongans (32.398). It is noteworthy that all Polynesian groups have a considerable degree of residential dissimilarity with the indigenous Maori. Other studies suggest that variations in the degree of residential concentration and spatial distance between two populations is an important index and determinant of social distance and differential assimilation. 8 In so far as particular patterns of location and concentration are a function of the differences between ethnic groups, these patterns will, in part, spell out the nature of the groups so organised. Some years ago, Park noted that “social relations were frequently correlated with spatial relations” and that “physical distances frequently were also indexes of social distances”. 9

If this is the case here, it would appear that social distance is least between Samoans and Cook Islanders, Cook Islanders and Niueans and is only slightly greater between Samoans and Other Polynesians, Cook Islanders and Other Polynesians. Social distance is comparatively great between Tongans and Niueans, Cook Islanders and Tongans, and is significantly higher between all Polynesian groups and the indigeneous Maori. Field work carried out by the author in Auckland and the Cook Islands, as well as visits to Western Samoa and Niue, seem to support such a contention. 10 A striking feature is that there exists little or no group unity among migrants even from the same island group and that most Polynesians tend to disregard their common geographical origins. Rather, bonds are forged at the village or island level and such ties are much more important and spontaneous than any national link. In 1965, for example, of 891 Cook Islanders who left the Cooks for New Zealand, slightly more than 70 percent originated from the three main islands of Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Mangaia. 11 Yet 21 villages on these islands contributed persons to the migration stream and most migrants placed village loyalty and ties above any island or Cook Island identification. 12

Not only are Polynesians fragmented into a number of small and discrete cellular groups in Auckland, but there often exists considerable antipathy between the various groups as well as between Polynesians and the indigenous Maori. In general terms, all Polynesians tend to look down on the Maori, who in turn regards them all as somewhat primitive and unsophisticated. Moreover, the Rarotongan, though well able to comprehend spoken Maori, normally disdains any understanding of it. A recent survey carried out in Auckland showed that most Cook Islanders regarded the Maori as an unacceptable marriage partner. 13 Within Auckland, the Samoan is often regarded by other groups as stand-offish and aloof, while the Niuean is treated with grudging respect because of his fierce and volatile temperament.

The experience of many United States and British cities indicates that the central or inner-city area provides the focal point for newly arrived immigrants, providing cheap and relatively easily obtained housing and generally easing their adjustment to a new and different way of life. 14 Polynesians in Auckland have experienced a similar pattern of settlement. Figures in Table 3 under the column - 426 headed Centrality highlight such a pattern. 15 Within Auckland, Niueans show the greatest tendency toward central concentration followed closely by Cook Islanders. Maoris, by contrast, show a much more dispersed pattern and are more likely to be found in some of the outer suburbs.

Residential Changes 1956-1966

A comparison of Tables 3 and 4 shows that there has been a trend towards diminishing residential dissimilarity between Polynesian groups in Auckland in the decade 1956-1966.

In almost every case dissimilarity indexes were considerably lower in 1966 than 10 years before. In some cases the index had halved in 10 years. Most spectacular was the case of Cook Islanders and Samoans where the index dropped from 40.7 in 1956 to 16.4 in 1966 and of Samoans and Other Polynesians (42.0 in 1956 to 20.4 in 1966). In all cases the residential dissimilarity between Pacific Islanders and Maoris on the one hand and Islanders and Europeans on the other has remained fairly high. Despite declining residential dissimilarity, the degree of segregation from the rest of the population has remained high over the last decade. Pacific Islanders are still found concentrated in large numbers in a few inner census tracts of the city.

The two most segregated groups in 1956 and 1966, Niueans and Cook Islanders, were significantly enough the two groups with the highest proportion of their population in the inner-city area. Allied to changes in residential proximity there have been general distributional changes over the last 10 years. In 1956 the greatest concentration of Polynesians was to be found in and around the central core of the city. In this year slightly in excess of 58 percent of all Islanders were resident in the inner-city area, and for Niueans, Samoans and Cook Islanders the figure was somewhat higher (Table 5). In the early 1960s there was, however, a distinct suburban movement as Polynesians diffused to outer areas. In most cases, Islanders avoided the intermediate and often higher status inner suburbs and moved to peripheral areas. In 1966 the percentage of Islanders resident in the inner area had fallen to 40.7 and of Samoans, Tongans and other Polynesians even lower (Table 5).

  Percent of Population Resident in Inner City  
  1956 1966
Samoans 60.0 36.8
Cook Islanders 60.5 44.7
Niueans 73.7 52.8
Tongans 41.1 27.1
Other Polynesians 51.4 37.8
Total Island Polynesians 58.4 40.7

Source : Dept. of Statistics, 1956 and 1966

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Index of concentration—Samoans, Auckland urban area, 1966.
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Index of concentration—Cook Islanders, Auckland urban area, 1966.
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Index of concentration—Niueans, Auckland urban area, 1966
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Distributional Pattern

Auckland's Polynesian groups not only showed different degrees of concentration and segregation, but also had different residential patterns. Maps showing the location of the densest areas of concentration were prepared for each group. For reasons of space, however, only the three major groups (Samoans, Cook Islanders and Niueans) are reproduced here. For the purposes of these maps a simple index of residential concentration is used. 16

After Maoris, Samoans are the largest non-European minority group in Auckland. In 12 census divisions Samoans comprised more than two percent of the total population in 1966 and more than five percent in seven divisions. As Figure 1 shows, the seven inner city divisions have the most significant concentration of Samoans, from 4.4 to 9.7 times the urban percentage. Outside this area, the major concentrations of Samoans occur in the west and south-west of the urban area, although Onehunga and Manukau City figure prominently in the south. Further concentrations are found in Mt Eden, Sandringham, Halsey-Waikowhai, Avondale North, Rosebank, Kelston West and Henderson.

Cook Islanders, the next largest group after Samoans, are equally concentrated in the inner-city area and yet are noticeably absent from some of the western divisions where Samoans are present (for example, Avondale North, Halsey-Waikowhai, Kelston West and Sandringham [Mt Albert]). Cook Islanders are also much more heavily represented in the three inner eastern areas of Parnell, Grafton and Newmarket (Figure 2). Finally, Niueans are the most concentrated Polynesian group in Auckland, with more than one-quarter of their population in the three census divisions of Freeman's Bay, Archhill and Eden Terrace (Figure 3). Outside of these central areas, Niueans are a noticeable proportion in Onehunga and Manukau City as well as in West Tamaki.

Three general patterns of ethnic concentration can be distinguished in Auckland. The first and most marked is the inner-city area consisting of the sub-divisions of Freeman's Bay, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Archhill, Kingsland, Eden Terrace and Newton. This area includes Auckland's zone of transition and the inner blue-collar residential area extending westwards from the waterfront along the depressions of Freeman's Bay, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and Newton Gully. 17 For many years Polynesians have been living in this area of timeworn workers' cottages, declining shopping streets and high residential densities. Since the early 1950s this area has experienced a process of invasion and succession of various ethnic groups and a subsequent outward migration of European residents. Today, the area is characterised by declining population and increasing non residential land-uses. Continued migration into this area since the mid 1950s has seen the establishment of a sizeable Polynesian community in the heart of - 431 the city. In the four census divisions of Freemans Bay, Newton, Eden Terrace and Archhill, Polynesian Pacific Islanders comprise more than 20 percent of the total population. 18 A number of factors have been influential in producing this concentration of Islanders. Originally, many migrants settled here because it was one of the few areas in Auckland where they were able to rent houses easily. After a period such considerations were reinforced by kinship and community ties. Most new arrivals expressed a concern to live either with or in close proximity to friends and/or relatives, and, since many owed their presence in Auckland to the sponsorship and financial generosity of these kin, it is not surprising that they should stay with them on arrival. In addition, Polynesians as the most recent arrivals on the urban scene are at the “back of the housing queue”, and at the back of the queue to move to more desired suburbs. The central part of Auckland is in the process of being abandoned by many lower middle-class and better-off artisans who, with the aid of credit facilities and the provisions of the State Housing Act, have moved to more preferred suburbs. Their deserted homes have passed to a disparate collection of people: young newly-weds, old-age pensioners and students, as well as Maoris and newly arrived Islanders. In many cases life in this area is a transitional one only, a period of waiting and acculturation before a suburban move can be made.

The second pattern to emerge shows a concentration of Islanders in the blue-collar sector of the eastern isthmus and South Auckland. This extends from West Tamaki, through Otahuhu to Manukau City in the south. It contains large numbers of Polynesians, many of whom have taken advantage of State housing at Otara and nearby industrial jobs.

Finally, Polynesians are now becoming established in larger numbers in the mature tramway suburbs of Mt Eden and Sandringham (Mt Albert). 19

Although Polynesian immigrants nowhere comprise more than 30 percent of the population of any census division in Auckland, they none the less play an important role in differentiating some city areas. The emergence of Polynesian residential concentrations in Auckland is seen by the author as a function of the low status of immigrants, the recency of their arrival, the housing market, and the changing nature of the inner-city area, as well as a concerted desire on the part of Islanders to retain some aspects of traditional life.

One may speculate that residential proximity to persons of the same cultural background and geographical origin provides an important means of preserving traditional cultural patterns and preferred modes of behaviour. Moreover, variations in a minority group's degree of residential concentration is often an indication of their degree of assimilation.

  • BLOOMFIELD, G. T., 1967. “The Growth of Auckland 1840-1966”, in Auckland in Ferment (ed. by J. S. Whitelaw), Auckland, NZ Geographical Society Miscell. Series No. 6, pp. 1-21.
  • COLLISON, P., 1967. “Immigrants and Residence”. Sociology, 1(3):277-292.
  • CURSON, P., 1967. “The Changing Demographic Structure of Auckland”, in Auckland in Ferment (ed. by J. S. Whitelaw), Auckland, NZ Geographical Society Miscell. Series No. 6, pp. 22-39.
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  • —— 1970a. “Cook Islanders in New Zealand”, in Immigrants in New Zealand (ed. by K. Thomson and A. Trlin), Palmerston North, Massey University.
  • —— 1970b. “Polynesians and Residence in Auckland”. New Zealand Geographer, 26(2) (in press).
  • DAHMS, F. A., 1966. The Journey to Work in Metropolitan Auckland. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Auckland University, Department of Geography.
  • DEPARTMENT OF CUSTOMS, RAROTONGA. Unpublished Migration Statistics, 1965.
  • DEPARTMENT OF STATISTICS, 1923. New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings 1921, Part 6, Race Aliens. Wellington, Government Printer.
  • —— 1929. New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, 1926, Volume 7, Race. Wellington, Government Printer.
  • —— 1945. New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, 1936, Volume 9, Race. Wellington, Government Printer.
  • —— 1949. New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, 1945, Volume 7, Race. Wellington, Government Printer.
  • —— 1956. New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, 1951, Volume 8, General Report. Wellington, Government Printer.
  • —— 1959. New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, 1956, Volume 7, Race. Wellington, Government Printer.
  • —— 1969. New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, 1966, Volume 7, Race. Wellington, Government Printer.
  • DUNCAN, O. D., AND B. DUNCAN, 1955. “A Methodological Analysis of Segregation Indexes”. American Sociological Review, 20:210-217.
  • LANCASTER JONES, F., 1967. “Ethnic Concentration and Assimilation: An Australian Case Study”. Social Forces, 45:412-423.
  • LEIBERSON, S., 1963. Ethnic Patterns in American Cities. New York, Glencoe Free Press.
  • PARK, R. E., 1952. Human Communities. Illinois, Glencoe Free Press.
  • REX, J., AND R. MOORE, 1967. Race, Community and Conflict. London, Oxford University Press.
  • ROSE, E. J., et al, 1969. Colour and Citizenship: A Report on British Race Relations. London, Oxford University Press.
  • TAEUBER, K. E., AND A. F. TAEUBER, 1965. Negroes in Cities. Chicago, Aldine Publishing Company.
  • TIMMS, D. W. G., 1969. “Dimensions of Migrant Assimilation.” Australian Journal of Social Issues, 4:41-56.
1   This study is based on ananalysis of existing census material and a survey of Polynesian households in Auckland carried out by the author between 1966 and 1970. In addition, it draws on field work carried out in Rarotonga and visits to Niue and Western Samoa.
2   Department of Statistics 1959.
3   Department of Statistics 1969.
4   Collison 1967; Lancaster Jones 1967; Leiberson 1963; Taeuber and Taeuber 1965; Timms 1969.
5   For a good discussion of the various indexes of dissimilarity see Duncan and Duncan 1955; Taeuber and Taeuber 1965.
6   See Collison 1967.
7   The formula for the index of dissimilarity is
½ Σ (Xi — Yi)
where X is the percentage distribution of a particular group over tracts and Y the percentage distribution of another group over tracts. Negative values are ignored in the calculation. The index of segregation is the same except that Y relates to the total population less X.
8   Collison 1967; Lancaster Jones 1967; Leiberson 1963.
9   Park 1952:177.
10   See for example Curson 1970a; 1970b.
11   Department of Customs, Rarotonga.
12   Unpublished field sample of 200 emigrants leaving Rarotonga; carried out by the author 1965-1966.
13   Curson 1970a.
14   See Leiberson 1963; Rex and Moore 1967; Rose et al 1969.
15   Centrality refers simply to the percentage of a particular group's population resident in the inner city area. The inner city area is taken to be the 12 census divisions of Freeman's Bay, Ponsonby, Newton, Grey Lynn, Archhill, Kingsland, Mt Eden North, Eden Terrace, Grafton, Newmarket, Parnell and Auckland Central.
16   The formula for the index of residential concentration is
where O is the observed population of an ethnic group in census tract n; P the total population of the urban area; A the total population of the ethnic group in the urban area and D the total population of census tract n.
An index of 1 would indicate that the minority group was represented in the census tract in the same proportion as for the whole urban area. An index greater than 1 would indicate concentration in some degree; for example, an index of 4 would indicate that the particular group was concentrated in the tract at four times the proportion of the urban area. Conversely, an index figure of 0.5 would mean that there were half the number required for an even distribution.
17   The blue collar residential area is defined as that area of lowest income and lowest percentage of white collar workers in Auckland. For a further definition and discussion see Dahms 1966.
18   Department of Statistics 1969.
19   The tramway suburbs refer to those suburbs of Auckland initially developed in the years of the horse-tram (1884-1901) and built up during the early years of the electric tram (1902-1930s). For a further discussion see Bloomfield 1967 and Curson 1967