If New Zealand's squeaky-clean reputation has been undermined by migrants from countries where corrupt practices are the norm its only a very small minority, says a migrant business leader.

Serious Fraud Office director Julie Read told Parliament's law and order committee that immigration to New Zealand "has bought other cultures which take a completely different view in relation to conduct we consider to be corrupt, and which has not historically been considered corrupt elsewhere."

Read was responding to questions from MPs about New Zealand's worsening position in international anti-corruption rankings, three weeks after Transparency International's annual corruption perceptions index showed New Zealand falling to fourth in global rankings, having previously ranked as least corrupt for seven years running.

Serious Fraud Office chief executive Julie Read.
Serious Fraud Office chief executive Julie Read.

Executive Director of the New Zealand China Council, Pat English, said the disparity between New Zealand's ranking of number four and China's ranking of 83 was such a wide gulf it made the situation seem worse.


English said corrupt practices are commonplace in China, but being slowly addressed.

"We're talking about something that goes back thousands of years."

Migrants choose to come to New Zealand to participate in Kiwi culture, English said, and sometimes to escape the corruption.

"My friends and colleagues they like the lack of corruption and the level playing field."

However, English said he couldn't rule out any corrupt practices completely.

"I'm not saying it doesn't happen. There are people who take advantage of it and take the habits into other countries they travel to."

Read told BusinessDesk that immigrants from India and China, which ranked 76th and 83rd respectively on international corruption rankings in 2015, had different cultural attitudes towards corruption.

"In places like India and China, a long time ago public servants weren't paid for their work by the government," Read said. "They received the payment for the licence they gave and that was where they were intended to get their income from, so you can see how those cultural backgrounds can, in the long term, play into different attitudes."


"It's bringing in an element we need to be aware of and we need to work within those areas of our society to make sure that doesn't take root here," she said.

Indian migrants arriving permanently or for a long-term stay rose to 14,490 in 2015, or 11.9 percent of all long-term migrants that year, from 7,509 in 2010, which was 9.1 percent. Migrants from China rose to 11,036 in 2015, up from 6,177 in 2010, and increased on a proportional basis from 7.5 percent to 9.1 percent in that time.

- with BusinessDesk