The Mt Roskill by-election is going to be fought in one of the country’s most ethnically diverse electorates.

The electorate that was once state house country at the end of the tramline from the Auckland CBD is now a prime destination for recently arrived immigrants in Auckland.

Around 40% of its population are Asian – meaning Indian, Sir Lankan, Chinese, Korean, Philippino and so across the whole Asian continent.

Statistics New Zealand have yet to break down this “one label fits all” description of  Mt Roskill’s immigrants.

Another 3% are Middle Eastern or African, but only 44% are Pakeha. Welcome to the new Auckland.

It’s therefore not surprising that both main parties have set up active ethnic outreach programmes in Auckland.

POLITIK covered the National Party’s campaign earlier this year.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan, an Indian born, Singapore raised former women’s refuge worker is Ethnic Communities Advisor for Labour.

She was 23rd on Labour’s list at the last election but is now seeking nomination for the Maungakiekie electorate held by National’s Sam Lotu Iiga.

But in the meantime, it’s her job to bring in the ethnic vote for Labour and she is starting in Mt Roskill.


However, she recognises that National is competing for the same ethnic vote.

“The Government always has the benefit of incumbency,” she says.

She says National also has the advantage of simply having more MPs.

“There are lots of events in this community, and they are usually the first step in the engagement process.

“They are able to have two or three MPs at each event whereas we might have only one or two.”

So Radhakrishnan is also focussing on issues.

“I personally don’t it is enough to simply be at an event or to have a large crowd of people at your conference.

“I don’t think that is good enough.

“I think we need to go that extra step and look att he main issues that are affecting these communities.

“And how  can we do something to truly benefit these communities.”

She says that there are issues that are the same for everybody regardless of ethnicity — housing, transport, education and employment.

“I think you’ve got some that disproportionately affect these communities.

“personal safety is one.

“Anywhere I go in Auckland across the communities; it’s the issue that crime is getting worse, concerning the burglaries and assaults.

“For these people, it’s much more in their face.

“And because so many people from the migrant communities are at the forefront of crime because of owning dairies or liquor stores or that their experience of crime is disproportionately higher.”

But concern about crime is also matched, particularly within the African community, about institutionalised racism within the police.

Young Africans in Mt Roskill recently put out a report about their experiences with the police, and she suspects that will be an issue in the campaign.

She concedes that structural racism is a hard thing to break down and says that apart from dealing with specific examples like the police or the criminal justice system another way is to look at specific areas of decision making like school boards and the public sector where ethnic people are disproportionately represented.

But of course the big institution for representation is Parliament, and here Labour is not doing so well. 

It has no Asian MPs and only three Pasifika MPs.

National, on the other hand, has three Asian MPs and reports suggest that they are seeking to have more Asian candidates high on their list at the next election.

More tellingly, their candidate for the Mt Roskill by-election is likely to be Indian born Pamjeet Parmar while Labour has Pakeha, Michael Wood.

“It’s not Labour thinking that ethnic candidates are not a priority — -it’s just that Labour didn’t get the party vote that it needed to get candidates like Raymond Huo and me in.”

In her work for Phil Goff in Mt Roskill, she has already learned that the 40% Asian statistic masks a whole range of different communities with subtly different needs.

It is that sort of background knowledge that she (and Labour) are hoping will deliver votes in thee electorate and even more votes in the general election next year.