A local board is embarking on a project to convince Asian businesses at a town centre that it makes business sense to translate their business signs and menus into English, and providing the translation service to help them do so.
Whau board chairman Derek Battersby said the project, part of a plan to boost the night-time economy for New Lynn, will target 35 mainly Asian food businesses and will take about three months to complete.
A Massey University study claims that the proliferation of signs using ethnic scripts in Auckland was making some Kiwis uncomfortable, and their reactions range from "annoyance" to "repugnance".
Yesterday, the Herald reported that locals claimed they were missing out because migrant businesses were not translating their signs into English.
"It's very annoying when you go into a restaurant and you see a menu that's one side in English and the other side's Chinese, and there's always a view that the Chinese being used is somewhat different, and sometimes it is," Mr Battersby said.
"We'll be discussing with business owners to have the translation being done line by line, with the English next to the Asian script."
Mr Battersby said a big challenge was communication, and his board would engage the services of a consultant and translators to reach the Asian businesses there.
He said the board would provide the translation service for those without the know-how to do it themselves.
"A lot of the Asian business owners are from China and come from working class backgrounds, and they don't really understand the business environment here," Mr Battersby said.
"They've got to understand that their business plans are quite weak, and they need to grow that."
The board will recommend the project, which is expected to cost between $5000 and $10,000, to the Auckland Council to make it region-wide if it was successful in New Lynn.
The Office of Ethnic Affairs will be holding a conference on Friday aimed at encouraging New Zealand businesses to tap into the links that these ethnic businesses offered.
"Ethnic small- and medium-size businesses are a latent and potent force in the economy, whose contribution towards economic rejuvenation remains untapped," said director Mervin Singham.
"Making better international linkages can help lift this country's economic performance."
Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins, who is speaking at the Epic NZ Conference, is defending the right for migrant businesses to not use English on their signs.
"At the heart of the issue is the right of all people in New Zealand to advertise their business in any language they like," Ms Collins said. "It is also up to the businesses concerned to assess whether using non-English signs for example will restrict their customer base ... it's up to them to decide if they should change."
The minister said many people enjoyed the sense of diversity ethnic signs brought to an area, and said people liked trying out foods and products sold at such outlets.