Associate Professor Ward Friesen

BA (Calgary), BA(Hons) (Carleton), PhD (Auckland)

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Honorary Academic


I am a human, economic, population, development, urban geographer, among other things. My BA was done in Canada at the University of Calgary and my BA(Hons) at Carleton University (Ottawa). Between these two events I travelled around the world for four years, including a considerable time in the Pacific and Asia, clues to my current regional interests.

My PhD was carried out at The University of Auckland with my thesis titled "Labour mobility and transformation in Solomon Islands: Lusim Choiseul, bae kam bak moa?". The second part in Solomons pijin means "if you leave Choiseul ("home"), will you ever return?".

Research | Current

  • Migration, ethnicity and identity in New Zealand (Filipino, Chinese, Indian, Pacific)
  • Mobility systems in Asia-Pacific
  • Development, transformation and livelihoods in the Pacific, especially Melanesia
  • Analysis of population structure and change
  • Suburban residential development and population implications in Auckland.
  • Demographic, ethnic and socio-economic change in the city.

Since writing my PhD thesis, I have returned to the Solomon Islands a number of times, undertaking further research and consultancies for UNDP, Solomon Islands government, European Union and others as well as independent research. My broader research interests in Melanesia include sustainable livelihoods, international and internal migration and identities, population change, environmental relationships with development, and community-based tourism.

In recent years, much of my research and writing has been related to New Zealand immigration and ethnic change, especially in Auckland, but in other parts of the country as well. One of my particular interests has been the ways in which immigrants have impacted urban spaces and institutions and created new ‘ethnoscapes’. This also relates to my interests in population change, urban planning, service provision and the built form.

Other recent research projects include one on international education in New Zealand with two geography colleagues, and a project called “Transnationalism in Pacific health through the lens of TB” with an interdisciplinary team from anthropology, geography, history and population health. Most recently, I have been carrying out research on Filipino migration to New Zealand.

Teaching | Current

I retired in 2020, so I am not longer lecturing. In recent years, my main teaching took place in the following courses:

  • GEOG 202 Geography of Social and Economic Change
  • GEOG 305 Population, Health and Society
  • GEOG 312 Geographies of Pacific Development (co-ordinator)
  • GEOG 315 Research Design and Methods in Human Geography
  • GEOG 715 Development and New Regional Geographies (co-ordinator)

I usually also contributed one or more lectures each year in: GEOG 091F, GEOG 701, DEVELOP 710, ASIAN 104

Postgraduate supervision

Current PhD students

  • Harry Yu Shi  Chinese migrant chefs in Auckland (Geography) (co-supervisor with Francis Collins)
  • Barbara Ribeiro  Specialty food transitions in New Zealand: enabling perspectives for more substantial change (Geography) (co-supervisor with Nick Lewis)

PhD theses completed

  • 2020 Hyrine Munga Adoption of household renewable energy technologies: domestic biogas in rural Kenya (Geography) (co-supervisor, with Andreas Neef, Development Studies)
  • 2019 Linda Madden  Urban natures: human and non-human interfaces in the urban environment  (Geography) (co-supervisor with Robin Kearns)
  • 2018 Emma Sharp Enacting other foodworlds: affective food initiatives performing a care-full politics of difference (primary supervisor, with Nick Lewis)
  • 2015  Loic Le De  Remittances in the face of disasters: a Samoan case study  (Geography) (co-supervisor with J.C. Gaillard)
  • 2013  Corina Brockenberger  The experiences of housing quality among home-owners: an analysis of the Auckland region (Geography) (primary supervisor with Robin Kearns)
  • 2013  Evelyn Marsters  Cook Islanders, transnationalism and health through the lens of tuberculosis (Development Studies & Geography) (co-supervisor with Yvonne Underhill-Sem)
  • 2012 Jane YeonJae Lee  Korean return-migrants from overseas: investigating the ideology of “Go-Hyan” (home) in their experiences (Geography) (primary supervisor with Robin Kearns)
  • 2012 Sheila Siar  Home country - diaspora ties for development through knowledge exchange networks: The case of highly skilled Filipino migrants in New Zealand and Australia (Development Studies) (co-supervisor with Yvonne Underhill-Sem)
  • 2011 Sally Liangni Liu  Homeland on the move – New Chinese in New Zealand: immigrants and cross-border transnationals (Asian Studies) (co-supervisor with Manying Ip)
  • 2009  Keisuke Nishikawa  Economic development in Pacific island states: an analysis of remittances and official aid in Samoa (Development Studies) (primary supervisor with Ken Jackson)
  • 2008  Man Hau Liev  Adaptation of Cambodians in New Zealand:  achievement, cultural identity and community development (Development Studies)  (primary supervisor with Julie Park)
  • 2007  Francis Collins  Learning to cross borders: everyday urban encounters between South Korea and Auckland (Geography) (co-supervisor with Robin Kearns)

Recent Masters theses supervised

2020 Ngan Le Community-based ecotourism and livelihoods in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

2017 Shannon McColley Historical GIS for Auckland suburbanisation: 1951-1981

2017 Jordan Griffiths Islamaphobia and everyday life of Muslim women in Auckland (primary supervisor with Francis Collins)

2016 Lisa Tsai Youth, Mobilities and Time: Taiwanese Working Holidaymakers in New Zealand (co-supervisor with
Francis Collins)
2016 Kailas Moral The role of health spas in Auckland (co-supervisor with Robin Kearns)
2015 Grant Shirley Off the beaten track: an exploratory study of utilising post-conflict tourism as a
branding approach in the autonomous region of Bougainville (Development Studies)
2011   Lisa Franks Developing an evidence-based monitoring approach for transport and accessibility outcomes and New Zealand’s ageing population: An analysis of the New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy and accessibility outcomes

2011   Victoria Teaurere Exploring inter-organisational influences on sustainable waste practices in the accommodation sector: Rarotonga, Cook Islands (Environmental Management)

2010 Cornelius Walegerea State intervention in rural development in the Solomon Islands: a post-development and governmentality approach (Development Studies)

2009  Silia Vaka’uta Dwelling in a hyphen: Tongan diaspora and the question of home

2008  Ruth Talo Festival of fusion: Representations of Pacific peoples at the Pasifika festival

2008  Jingjing Xue  Chinese ethnoburbs in Auckland, New Zealand: a spatial approach


Recent Honours dissertations supervised

2018 Han Ju Kim Investigating youth mental health experiences in Auckland, New Zealand through Hip Hop music

2017 Arishnil Swamy Media coverage of refugee migration in Europe

2015 Liam Kokaua Depopulation in Cook Islands and potential for migrant return
2014 Hannah Lightfoot Branding single-sex schools. An analysis of public single-sex secondary schools
and the relationship between branding and gender
2013  Charlotte Pecover British and Irish family migrant perspectives of settling in Auckland

2013  Isabella Johnstone Ageing in the city: the role of public libraries in facilitating involvement of the elderly

2012  Andrea Baxter Hip-hop soundscapes in Auckland

2012  Ivana Vela The “terrorist”: the media portrayal of Maori in the Tuhoe “anti-terror raids

2009  Amanda Gaddes The nature of ageing and the implications for social policy

2008  Leilani Hall Exotic and familiar: Exploring the adaptations of Thai restaurants in Auckland

2008  Jeffrey Van Kung Yik The nature of Chinese settlement in Auckland, New Zealand, a case study of Dannemora

2008  Priscilla Camp Politics of identity within a suburban transnational Sikh community



  • “Champion” for Royal Society of New Zealand to develop and present paper to Association of Asian Social Science Councils (AASSREC) 19th General Conference, Manado, Indonesia on “Brain chains: a New Zealand perspective”, October, 2011.
  • APRU Fellow for “New Directions in Asian Studies: nationality and identity in the pre and post digital age”, University of British Columbia and University of Malaya, August 2005.
  • Joint winner of the 2005 APRU Fellows Program Collaborative Research Paper Award: 2006.  BUNNELL, T., FRIESEN, W. & LYNN, H.Y. “Indigi-nation: the politics of being/becoming indigenous in Malaysia, New Zealand and Canada”, APRU Secretariat, Singapore.

Areas of expertise

  • Migration, ethnicity and identity in New Zealand (Filipino, Chinese, Indian, Pacific)
  • Mobility systems in Asia-Pacific
  • Development, transformation and livelihoods in the Pacific, especially Melanesia
  • Tourism, especially ecotourism and community-based tourism
  • Analysis of population structure and change
  • Suburban residential development and population implications in Auckland.
  • Demographic, ethnic and socio-economic change in the city.

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Lead editor New Zealand Population Review 2008-2018
  • President, Population Association of New Zealand (PANZ) (2005-2007)
  • Chair, Development Studies Advisory Board 2013-2016
  • Member, University of Auckland UNHABITAT Steering Committee, 2010-2019
  • Co-chair Pacific Futures theme, School of Environment, 2009-2019
  • Elected sub-professorial member, International Committee 2005-2007
  • Member, Working committee on Socio-economic Status of Students (Office of Pro Vice Chancellor, Equal Opportunities) 2005-2007
  • Member, Board of Graduate Studies, Centre for Pacific Studies 2005-2019
  • Advisor, “Starpath: project for tertiary participation and success” 2004-05
  • Advisor, Vice Chancellor’s Working Committee on International Students 2003
  • Member, Development Studies Advisory Board 1996-2020
  • Acting Director, Centre for Development Studies 1994-96

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Friesen, W., & Collins, F. (2017). Brain chains: Managing and mediating knowledge migration. Migration and Development, 6 (3), 323-342. 10.1080/21632324.2016.1168107
  • Reeves, D., Knight Lenihan, S., Mannakkara, S., Underhill-Sem, Y., Friesen, W., Spoonley, P., ... Kiddle, R. (2016). A state of New Zealand report for UN Habitat III. Auckland, New Zealand: Urban Research Network, University of Auckland.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Yvonne Underhill-Sem, Janine Wiles, JC Gaillard, Sandeeka Mannakkara, Jennifer Salmond, David Grinlinton, Laurence Murphy, Zhi Dong, Manfredo Manfredini, Rosalind Archer, Stephen Knight-Lenihan, Claire Meehan
  • Friesen, W. (2015). Asian Auckland: the multiple meanings of diversity. 1-58. Wellington, New Zealand: Asia New Zealand Foundation. Related URL.
  • Friesen, W. (2015). Beyond the gateway: Asian migrants in small city New Zealand. Paper presented at Royal Geographical Society and Institute of British Geographers Annual International Conference, Exeter, England, UK. 1 September - 4 September 2015. Related URL.
  • Friesen, W., Blue, L., & Talo, R. (2014). Pasifika Festival representations and realities for the wellbeing of Pacific Peoples in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In G. Andrews, P. Kingsbury, R. A. Kearns (Eds.) Soundscapes of wellbeing in popular music (pp. 123-144). Surrey and Burlington: Ashgate.
  • Collins, F. L., & Friesen, W. (2011). Making the most of diversity? the intercultural city project and a rescaled version of diversity in Auckland, New Zealand. Urban Studies, 48 (14), 3067-3085. 10.1177/0042098010394686
  • Xue, J., Friesen, W., & O'Sullivan D (2011). Diversity in Chinese Auckland: Hypothesising Multiple Ethnoburbs. Population, Space and Place10.1002/psp.688
  • Lee, J. Y., Kearns, R. A., & Friesen, W. (2010). Seeking affective health care: Korean immigrants' use of homeland medical services. HEALTH & PLACE, 16 (1), 108-115. 10.1016/j.healthplace.2009.09.003
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Robin Kearns


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 4, Room 475
New Zealand

Web links