Greater interaction with Asians, public cultural celebrations and media reports have made Kiwis feel warmer towards Asian people, a study has found.
Asia New Zealand Foundation's annual survey, New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia and Asian People, reported a higher level of involvement with Asian people and culture, and a greater sense of integration between Asian and non-Asian Kiwis.
An increase in the resident Asian population, mainly because of immigration, had made Asian people "more visible" in the lives of New Zealanders, its report said.
"They had Asian neighbours, colleagues and healthcare professionals. These personal connections had become more common and everyday, so they felt that Asians were 'one of them' in the community."
Read the full report online here.
For the first time in five years, the survey showed a significant increase in people who said they had "a lot" or "a fair amount" to do with Asian peoples and cultures.
The number was up from 44 to 50 per cent, but the rise was particularly evident in Auckland, which was up from 53 per cent to 61 per cent.
The level of "warmth" felt towards people from some Asian countries, such as India, South Korea and Southeast Asia also enjoyed a small increase.
Asian cultural events and celebrations, such as Diwali, the Lantern Festival and Chinese New Year, provided "positive and joyful experiences", and New Zealanders felt that celebrating them with Asian people was a way of understanding and engaging with these cultures.
Contributors to the report also felt that negative media reports of other non-Asian cultures and religious groups might have also contributed to the increased warmth towards Asian people.
"There has been a lot more negative press centred around Muslim or Arab countries/cultures with the activities happening there which would leave more positive feelings towards seemingly more 'peaceful' cultures," one said.
Less positive, however, were the views about economic benefits with Asian people buying houses in New Zealand and Asian companies investing in local assets.
More agreed that Asians were responsible for rising property prices, up from 33 to 39 per cent - a view held by 54 per cent in Auckland.
"When you look around and see how many Asian, particularly Chinese, people are buying houses when those who are here cannot, it is natural to feel bad that they are the ones who make the median prices go higher than before," one respondent said.
More contributors also agreed that New Zealand was allowing too much investment from Asia, up from 36 per cent to 41 per cent, and the number who thought Asian investments were good for the economy fell from 75 to 69 per cent.
Eight out of 10 New Zealanders believed Asia was important to the country's future.
About 83 per cent thought children should learn a language other than English, and Chinese was the most commonly named.
"The latest survey is nuanced and complex," said foundation chairman John Luxton. "It shows a growing acceptance of Asian people as part of the fabric of New Zealand life, and an increased understanding of the need for our education system to reflect the significance of Asia to New Zealand."
UK import notices big change
Neil Emery moved from England to New Zealand 26 years ago when Auckland was "not much different" from any European country.
"People in Auckland were mainly European, and there were very few Asian people around," the 51-year-old programme academic leader said.
"So back then I had very little to do with Asians, professionally or socially."
Then, Mr Emery worked as a chef at a restaurant on Dominion Rd, where the shop staff and his customers were also mainly European.
Since 1987, the Asia-born population has increased by about 16 times, and Chinese businesses now dominate Dominion Rd.
Today, he works at Cornell Institute of Business and Technology - a business owned by a South Korean businessman and staffed by mainly Asian people.
Mr Emery said on any given day, about 80 per cent of his dealings and interaction were with Asian people.
"Having that much to do with Asians has made me go from the unfamiliar to comfortable with Asian people and their different cultures," he said.
"Certainly it has increased the level of warmth that I feel towards them, and in fact I have a best friend who is Indian."
Kiwi perceptions of Asia and Asian people:
•61% Aucklanders have a lot or a fair amount to do with Asians (up from 53%)
•54% Aucklanders feel Asians are responsible for rising property prices
•49% say schoolchildren should study Chinese
•80% feel Asian region is important to NZ's future
•28% think Asians do not mix well with New Zealanders (down from 34%)
Source: New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples 2014 report.
1000 telephone interviews between October 6 and November 9, 2014, with a follow-up online forum