Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Kiwis' attitude to Asians cooling, finds survey

Mai Nishiwaki (left), 25, and Lena Igarashi, 21, find New Zealanders to be very nice. Photo / Nick Reed
Mai Nishiwaki (left), 25, and Lena Igarashi, 21, find New Zealanders to be very nice. Photo / Nick Reed

Kiwis are feeling cooler towards Asian people despite feeling increasingly connected with them, research has found.

Since 1997, the Asia New Zealand Foundation has undertaken annual research to measure New Zealand's perceptions of Asian people and countries.

At a personal level, slightly more than half (51 per cent) of New Zealanders reported having at least a fair amount to do with Asian peoples and cultures - up from 30 per cent in 1998.

But one in three surveyed said they knew little or nothing about Asia, despite four in five believing Asia was important to New Zealand, and was the second most important region behind Australia.

The survey, New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples 2015, found those who had more involvement or knowledge of Asia reported more positive views about Asia and Asians.

Nearly half of the 1001 people surveyed felt New Zealand was allowing too much investments from Asia and believed Asian people were responsible for rising house prices.

One in four also felt Asian people did not mix well in New Zealand.

University of Auckland Professor of Asian Studies Manying Ip said to succeed in the region, it was important for Kiwis to understand Asia.

"To realise that we know little or nothing about Asia is the beginning of seeking more knowledge," she said.

The survey found that in 2015, New Zealanders had less positive sentiment and were less optimistic about our relationship with Asia.

On a scale of 0 to 100, feelings towards Chinese and Indians rated 64 (each down 4 points), South East Asians on 65 (down 5 points) and South Koreans on 66 (down 2 points).

Despite also dropping four points, Kiwis had the warmest feelings for people from Japan, with 69 points.

When asked why they thought feelings have cooled, participants at a follow-up forum again focused on housing market issues and negative media publicity about Asians buying businesses and property. AUT University Professor of Diversity Edwina Pio said it was important for media in New Zealand to give a "more holistic portrayal" of Asians.

Asia NZ Foundation executive director Simon Draper said: "The fact that media coverage is so influential shows our understanding of the region hasn't yet caught up to our knowledge of Europe or North America.

Respondents were asked what types of interactions they thought could facilitate understanding.

Examples given include interactions at schools, family gatherings and festival events, and some mentioned marrying into an Asian family.

The research was conducted by Colmar Brunton late last year.

Kiwis say konichiwa

Kiwis feel warmest towards Japanese people because few are property investors, Japanese community leader Masa Sekikawa says.

"Not many Japanese people have the money to buy up houses and farms, and I think that has kept us in the good books," said Mr Sekikawa, an adviser to the Japan Society of Auckland.

"Many New Zealanders are also more aware of Japanese culture, whether it is through the sushi they eat or Japanese language that they learned at school."

The Asia New Zealand survey found New Zealanders felt warmest towards Japanese people but were overall cooler towards all Asian people.

Mr Sekikawa said he was surprised with the survey results.

Lena Igarashi, 21, who has lived in New Zealand for three years, said her encounters with Kiwis had generally been positive. "New Zealand people are quite nice to everyone," she said.

Mai Nishiwaki, 25, arrived from Japan four months ago and considered Kiwis to be "very friendly and nice".

- NZ Herald

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