Past Migration Research Group Projects

In its 17 year history, the Migration Research Group undertook a significant number of projects and generated a sizeable mass of publications. Archival access to these resources is provided here.

Strangers in Town: Enhancing Family and Community in a More Diverse New Zealand Society (2002-2010)

In 2002 Migration Research Group (now known as The Population Studies Centre) gained a grant of $2.4 million from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) for a six-year research programme to develop new knowledge about the role of population movement in the changing nature of families and communities, in order to underpin the development of public policy and community responses that foster social cohesion and economic inclusion in a society characterised by increasing cultural diversity. The programme builds on information bases generated by previous FRST-funded Transitions: Family, Community and Employment, and the New Demographic Directions programmes at the PSC concerning the structure, dynamics and transitions in New Zealand’s population. The programme co-ordinator is Professor Richard Bedford, who has also led Objective 1 of the research programme since 2006. Objective 2 is led by Dr Elsie Ho.  In 2006 FRST funding for Objective 1 has been rescheduled to run through to 2010 to enable the research team to fulfill the contracted milestones related the analysis of data collected in the Survey of Dynamics and Motivations for Migration in New Zealand (DMM) and the Longitudinal Immigration Survey: New Zealand (LisNZ). more...

Enhancing Wellbeing in an Ageing Society (2004-2009)

The Centre was awarded a five-year research grant from FRST on Enhancing Wellbeing in an Ageing Society (EWAS), which is one of the priority areas in FRST-funded social research. The proposal was developed in full partnership with the Social Policy Research Unit of the Family Centre (FCSPRU) based in Lower Hutt. The programme considers the implications of population ageing by means of the analysis of existing data sources, new survey-based data and micros-simulation based projections, while also considering as yet lesser studied topics such as issues of mental health, security, aspirations, multi-generational transactions and support, etc. An important aspect of the research is the study of support systems available to the elderly, and the support and other resources the elderly provide themselves to society. Objective leaders are Professor Peggy Koopman-Boyden and Professor Ian Pool of The Population Studies Centre and Charles Waldegrave and Dr Peter King of FCSPRU, with overall programme direction by Professor Richard Bedford (PSC) and Charles Waldegrave (FCSPRU).

Other EWAS team members who are based at the University of Waikato include Dr Suzan van der Pas, a specialist in research on intergenerational relationships of older adults in the Netherlands, and Dr Michael Cameron from the Economics Department in the Waikato Management School. Dr Michael Cameron is supporting the research into population projections, microsimulation, and wellbeing and ageing. In July 2007 Dr Suzan van der Pas was appointed as a part-time Senior Research Fellow in the Population Studies Centre to carry out research on social dimensions of ageing in the EWAS programme. more...

Demographic Forecasts for the Bay of Plenty Region (2005-2006)

This contract research project for Environment Bay of Plenty provides a set of population and household forecasts for the Bay of Plenty region over the 50 years 2001 to 2051. The demographic projection information will assist various councils in the Bay of Plenty to plan and provide for the future well-being of their communities. Key drivers of positive and negative population growth in the region are also identified.

Ethnic Communities' Perception of the New Zealand Police (2005-2006)

This contract research project will provide information on attitudes and perceptions that ethnic communities have about the New Zealand Police. The information gained in this research will be used to develop a survey with which Police can regularly monitor perceptions and attitudes, and assess their progress towards achieving the outcomes identified in the Police Ethnic Strategy Towards 2010.

Improving Access to Health and ACC Information and Services for Older Asians (2005-2006)

Access for older adults is an increasingly important focus for the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). This study will explore attitudes and perceptions concerning home and road safety and the use of health information and services, and to recommend strategies for disseminating information and influencing access behaviour to older Asian people in New Zealand.

Experiences of Chinese International Students (2005-2006)

This research project is funded by the Export Education Levy and administered by Education New Zealand. It will explore Chinese international students' learning expectations, and their experiences both in the classroom as well as in the community. It will also examine some policy initiatives that have been introduced in recent years in New Zealand to facilitate the transition of international students into permanent residence, and explore the aspirations of some Chinese students who are thinking of applying for residence in New Zealand.

Community Perception of International Students (2004-2005)

In 2003, there were more than 110,000 international students studying in New Zealand, earning the country $2.2 billion and making education the fourth largest export earner. While the positive and negative consequences of increased numbers of international students within educational institutions and the broader community have been widely discussed, popular commentaries have been primarily based on anecdotal observations rather than systematic studies.

In November 2004 Dr Elsie Ho gained a research subcontract from the Centre of Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington to carry out research for the Ministry of Education and Education New Zealand to provide information on attitudes towards international students. Other subcontractor personnel include: Dr Prue Holmes from the Department of Management Communication and Jenine Cooper from the Migration Research Group.

The study will examine how local communities, including businesses, interact with or perceive international students. The researchers will also conduct focus groups with secondary/tertiary/private language school teachers to elicit stories and experiences from staff to explore the nature and implications of their interactions, teaching approaches, and curriculum choices. The four chosen centres represent communities with high ( Auckland and Christchurch), medium ( Hamilton) and low (Tauranga) concentrations of international students. Guidelines on how to help staff interact with international students, and on how to integrate international students into local communities will be developed.

Public Health Needs of Waikato Migrants and Refugees (2005)

This project was funded by the Ministry of Health and completed in December 2005. The project provided the first comprehensive analysis of the demographics and public health needs of migrants and refugees in the Waikato region. It involved the analysis of the 2001 census data on the demographics of migrant and refugee groups in the Waikato , the stock-take of existing public health-related services and resources, and extensive consultation with service providers, community agencies and ethnic community representatives in the region. Recommendations were made for improving health outcomes for Waikato migrants and refugees.

Review and Evaluation of International Literature on Managing Cultural Diversity in the Classroom (2004)

This research project is funded by the Export Education Levy administered by the Ministry of Education and Education New Zealand. The research team comprises Dr Elsie Ho, Dr Prue Holmes and Jenine Cooper. A review of international literature on cultural differences in teaching, learning and intercultural communication in the multicultural classroom has been undertaken to identify issues and strategies for managing diversity. Guidelines arising from the literature research on how to manage cultural diversity in the classroom and the institution are now being developed.

Project completed December 2004.
Full report available on the Education New Zealand website:

Mental Health Issues for Asians in New Zealand: A Literature Review (2002)

This commissioned report for the Mental Health Commission was completed in November 2002 (1). The Chief Investigators were Dr Elsie Ho and Sybil Au (Sub-Contractor), assisted by graduate students Charlotte Bedford and Jenine Cooper. The report addresses five main topic areas relevant to the Mental Health Commission's specified areas of interest:

  • What are the major problems and difficulties experienced by Asian recent immigrants, refugees and fee-paying students in New Zealand?
  • What is the prevalence of mental illness and mental health problems amongst Asians?
  • What are the factors associated with increased risk of mental illness amongst immigrants and refugees? What are the factors that protect against the development of mental illness?
  • What barriers are preventing the usage of mental health services by Asian service users and their families?
  • How widespread is the use of traditional healing practices among Asians in New Zealand?

The report identified two themes that dominate recent mental health-related research on Asian recent immigrants, refugees and fee-paying students in New Zealand. One focuses on their adaptational problems, mental health status, and factors contributing to or hindering their successful adaptation and mental health. The second theme concerns the utilisation of mental health services, especially the barriers preventing their access to services. The research review has found that language problems, failure to find employment, separation from family and community, negative public attitudes and traumatic experiences prior to migration are key factors associated with increased risk of mental disorders among Asians. Most of these factors are amenable to change. Thus attending to risk factors can help improve the adaptation and mental health of Asian communities.

The research review has also found that stigma is a major obstacle preventing Asian migrants from using mainstream mental health services. Besides, a lack of English proficiency, inadequate knowledge and awareness of existing services, and cultural differences in the assessment and treatment of mental illness, are additional barriers to their use of the mental health care system. These issues draw attention to the need for more responsiveness to the needs of Asian service users and their families in the mental health system. Finally, based on the findings from the research review, four groups that experience a high risk of developing mental health difficulties are identified for further research.

(1) Ho, E.S., Au, S., Bedford, C. and Cooper, J. (2002) Mental Health Issues for Asians in New Zealand: A Literature Review. Commissioned Report for the Mental Health Commission, Wellington.

Information Services for New Settlers in Hamilton (2001 - 2002)

This research project was completed in February 2003 with financial assistance from Trust Waikato. The chief investigators were Drs Elsie Ho and Jacqueline Lidgard, with input from Dr Wendy Cowling from the Anthropology Department, and Professor Richard Bedford.

Over the past decade there has been a substantial increase in the number of non-English-speaking-background new immigrants and refugees coming to New Zealand. The 2001 Census identified 6,600 new migrants who had chosen to settle in Hamilton between 1996 and 2001; ten percent of them could speak other languages but not English or Maori. The main aim of this research project was to provide information to assist with the development of support services for new settlers in Hamilton.

The project has found that there is a wide range of information on issues related to daily living, transport, health, education, housing, welfare, legal and employment available to new settlers. However, it is scattered across various locations in the city and is often difficult for even local English speakers to access. Around 80 percent of this information is written in the English language only.

Data from the 2001 Census indicate the top 5 non-official languages spoken by new settlers in Hamilton with no English or Maori are: Chinese (includes Mandarin and Cantonese), Somali, Korean, Khmer and Arabic. Top priority should be given for the translation of relevant information into these languages. Other languages that were identified by the survey of key informants as important for translation in Hamilton were Hindi, Punjabi, Samoan and Tongan.

The delivery of information services to new settlers can be improved by displaying the information in locations that are easily accessible. Apart from using a Central Resource Centre recommended to be established by Intersect Waikato's Refugee and New Migrant Strategic Plan, other places where information for new settlers could be most usefully distributed in Hamilton are: the Hamilton City Council, Hamilton Multi-Cultural Services Centre, Refugee and Migrant Services and the Department of Work and Income.

Ho, E.S., Lidgard, J.M., Cowling, W. and Bedford, R.D. (2003). Knowledge for New Settlers: A Survey of Needs in Hamilton. Research report for Trust Waikato. Migration Research Group, Hamilton.

The New Demographic Directions programme (1996-2004)

A two-year extension to the New Demographic Directions Programme, led by Professor Ian Pool, has been granted by FRST to enable the research team to complete the regional synthesis of New Zealand’s recent demographic and socio-economic transformations undertaken between 1998 and 2002. This evidence base on regional population dynamics, structures and characteristics, along with that on national population dynamics developed by the research team between 1993 and 2002, is the foundation on which the team is building a new programme of research on New Zealand’s population future. During the period 2002-2004, the research programme’s two Objective Leaders are Dr Dharmalingam and Professor Richard Bedford.

Over the past 12 months, in association with the Western Bay of Plenty SmartGrowth Project, the MRG made substantial progress towards developing the sub-national knowledge base. Major outputs from this research are reported in the next section. Wider dimensions of international migration at the national level, which has been a primary focus of the research activities of the MRG since 1993, continue to be a research focus. Aspects of contemporary international migration to and from New Zealand that were explored during the past 12 months included:

  • the globalisation of international migration in New Zealand (1)
  • policy responses to address the issue of skill shortages in New Zealand (2)
  • return migrant behaviour of New Zealanders (3)
  • migrant behaviour of families from northeast Asia (4)and Africa (5)

In the next 12 months, the MRG will contribute to developing innovative frameworks for achieving informed forecasts of New Zealand's population future.

(1) Bedford, R.D., Ho, E.S. and Lidgard, J.M. (2002). International migration in New Zealand: context, components and policy issues. Journal of Population Research and New Zealand Population Review, Joint Special Issue, September, 39-65; Bedford, R.D., Bedford, C., Ho, E.S. and Lidgard, J. (2002). The globalization of international migration in New Zealand: contribution to a debate. New Zealand Population Review, 28(1), 69-97; Spoonley, P. and Bedford, R.D. (forthcoming) Blurring the boundaries: the impact of contemporary migration flows and transnational linkages on Aotearoa./New Zealand., in R. Iredale, C. Hawksley and S. Castles (Eds) Migration in the Asia-Pacific: Population, Settlement and Citizenship Issues. Edward Algar, London.
(2) Bedford, C. (2002). Skill shortages: fact or fiction? A comparison of New Zealand and Australian policy responses. Paper presented to the East-West Center International Graduate Student Conference, Hawaii.
(3) Lidgard, J. (2002) Time to celebrate international brain exchange: New Zealanders still come home. In P. Holland, F. Stephenson and A. Wearing (Eds) 2001, Geography - A Spatial Odyssey. Proceedings of the third Joint Conference of the New Zealand Geographical Society and the Institute of Australian Geographers. New Zealand Geographical Society, Hamilton, 321-326; Lidgard, J. and Gilson, C. (2002) Return migration of New Zealanders: shuttle and circular migrants. New Zealand Population Review, 28(1), 99-128.
(4) Ho, E.S. (2002). Multi-local residence, transnational networks: Chinese ‘astronaut’ families in New Zealand. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 11(1), 145-164.
(5) Njeba, K.K. and Bedford, R.D. (2002) Mobility in Cameroon: explaining return migration in the 1990s”. In P. Holland, F. Stephenson and A. Wearing (Eds) 2001, Geography - A Spatial Odyssey. Proceedings of the third Joint Conference of the New Zealand Geographical Society and the Institute of Australian Geographers. New Zealand Geographical Society, Hamilton, 335-341.

Western Bay of Plenty SmartGrowth Project (2001 - 2003)

SmartGrowth is a strategic planning programme for the Western Bay of Plenty Sub-region (WBOP Sub-region, defined as the Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty District Council administrative areas), jointly led by Environmental Bay of Plenty, Tauranga District Council, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council and Tangata Whenua. Over the three-year period SmartGrowth aims to make provision for sustainable urban and rural development in the WBOP Sub-region for the next 20-50 years.

In October 2001, the Migration Research Group gained a research contract from SmartGrowth to undertake a demographic study of the WBOP Sub-region. The overall goal is to provide a robust set of population projections that can be used to assist with the wider objectives of the SmartGrowth Project. The demographic research team comprises Professor Richard Bedford (Team Leader), and Drs Dharmalingam, Elsie Ho, Jacqueline Lidgard and Colin McLeay.

Over the past 12 months, major outputs from the demographic research undertaken by the Migration Research Group have included:

  • a review of relevant literature, including earlier “growth” studies in the WBOP and international literature on the “consumer city” (1).
  • a special purpose survey on migration into and out of the WBOP (as part of the FRST-funded New Demographic Directions Programme and with financial support from the Labour Market Policy Group) and associated analysis of 2001 census data (2).
  • preparation of population projections (3).

In the next six months, a second special purpose survey will be undertaken to identify the key reasons why people from other areas settle in the WBOP Sub-region. The demographic research will complete with the publication of a final report which provides population forecasts for the Maori, non-Maori and total resident populations in the WBOP for the next 20-50 years.

(1) McLeay, C. (2002). Contextualising Tauranga: towards an understanding of the ‘Consumer City’ and Smartgrowth. Briefing Paper prepared for the seminar “New Directions: New Settlers. Responding to Contemporary Migration Challenges”, 10-11 April, Wellington.
(2) Lidgard, J. and McLeay, C. (2002). Researching characteristics of people moving into and out of the Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga districts: some methodological issues. Population Studies Centre Discussion Paper No. 41. University of Waikato, Hamilton; Lidgard, J.M. and McLeay, C. (2002). Location, location: surveying migration through change of address requests. Paper presented at the Sociological Association of Aotearoa (NZ), Social Science in the 21st Century: Challenges to Theory, Policy, Practice. 5-7 December, University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
(3) Bedford, R. (2002). Recent developments in population movement and growth in the Western Bay of Plenty. Briefing Paper prepared for the SmartGrowth Workshop, 12 May, Tauranga; Bedford, R.D. and Dharmalingam, A. (2002). Migration and population forecasts for the Western Bay of Plenty, 2001-2051: implications for the labour force. Paper presented at the Labour, Employment and Work Conference, 21-22 November, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington.