Lincoln Tan

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

View of Asia sours in harder times

Only half of those surveyed sees Asian immigration as positive and 31pc feel immigrants are taking jobs away.
Intercultural mixing also remained superficial with 'shops or services' being the main contact point most had with people from Asia. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Intercultural mixing also remained superficial with 'shops or services' being the main contact point most had with people from Asia. Photo / Paul Estcourt

The Kiwi love affair with Asia may be waning with fewer now thinking Asia is important to New Zealand's future or viewing Asian immigration as positive.

Intercultural mixing also remained superficial with "shops or services" being the main contact point most had with people from Asia.

The annual Asia New Zealand Foundation Perceptions of Asia research had found those believing New Zealand's future was with Asia had fallen 6 percentage points - after hitting a 10-year high at 83 per cent in 2011 - and just 51 per cent (down from 55) believed Asian immigration was positive for the country.

One in four of the 1000 people interviewed in the Colmar Brunton survey said they felt less warm to Asian people, with just 14 per cent (down from 21 per cent) feeling warmer.

University of Auckland Asian Studies Professor Manying Ip said the timing of the survey, done last September when unemployment reached 7.3 per cent (the highest level in 13 years) contributed to the rise in negative sentiments.

"Economy drives perceptions and when it takes a dive, it is easy to put the blame on those on the periphery, such as Asians, for taking the jobs and undercutting the labour market," she said.

Three in 10 surveyed believed Asian immigrants took jobs away from New Zealanders and 42 per cent (down from 47) said Asian employees improved workplace productivity.

Last September, the Haier takeover of Fisher & Paykel made the news and international reports covered conflicts in Japan, China and the two Koreas, Professor Ip said.

"The territorial disputes between China and Japan, and Japan and South Korea, seems to show that Asia isn't such a stable place, and that could be why New Zealanders didn't want to be part of Asia," she said. "People want to be part of the prosperity, not part of ongoing conflicts."

Feelings of warmth for people from China, Japan and India all dipped, with only South Korea rising one percentage point, and those who considered New Zealand as "part of Asia" went down from 22 per cent to 17 per cent.

Professor Ip said the report also showed contact with Asians was limited, especially social and professional interactions.

"It was only when Kiwis go to the bakery, buy tofu and eat noodles that they get in contact with an Asian," she said.

Foundation executive director John McKinnon said the report suggested New Zealanders "shifted their focus inwards" when economic optimism decreased.

Kiwi perceptions

* 77 per cent agreed Asia was important to NZ's future

* 89 per cent main contact with Asians was at shops or services

* 31 per cent felt Asian immigrants took jobs away

* 51 per cent saw Asian immigration as positive

* 17 per cent considered New Zealand "part of Asia"

Source: Asia New Zealand Foundation

- NZ Herald

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