The Auckland Council is being urged to explore the possibility of turning part of Dominion Rd into a Chinatown.

A Massey University study found the area has been turned into "one of the ethnic precincts dominated by Asian businesses, Chinese in this case" over the past 20 years.

In the area from Balmoral Rd to Kensington Ave, 78 per cent of businesses are Asian-owned - 51 per cent Chinese - and only 14 per cent are owned by European New Zealanders, the study found. Just 2 per cent of the more than 30 restaurants there are owned by Europeans compared with 90 per cent being owned and operated by Asians, mainly Chinese.

In the area between King Edward St to Valley Rd, 47.6 per cent of businesses are Asian-owned while 40 per cent are owned by European New Zealanders.

"It would be interesting to explore with the current business owners, and other key stakeholders, whether there would be support for a themed or branded precinct that might be labelled a Chinatown or, more likely, something more modest such as decorations or signage which reflects the Asian/Chinese character of sections of Dominion Rd," the report said.

Researchers suggested that promoting the area as a themed or branded shopping destination could benefit the business owners and the wider Auckland economy. Auckland Mayor Len Brown said he welcomed the recommendations in the report, Half Way House: The Dominion Rd Ethnic Precinct, which was conducted as part of the Integration of Immigrants Programme funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Mr Brown said Dominion Rd was a special part of the city, and "we need to do what we can to enhance its character and attractiveness" to Aucklanders and visitors. But Auckland Council ethnic panel chairwoman Camille Nakhid said the recommendations could segregate a segment of the community.

"Auckland should be all about welcoming people of different ethnicities rather than casting any group aside," she said. "It is different if it happens naturally, but to officially brand a place Chinatown should be done only if the community wants it and not something the council should decide on its own."

Researcher Paul Spoonley said the recommendations were for the council to celebrate ethnic diversity and not meant to suggest it segregate any particular group. "There is not a major tourist destination around the world that does not have a Chinatown, with Auckland being an exception."


Between Balmoral Rd and Kensington Ave:

* 78 per cent of businesses and

* 73 per cent of restaurants Asian owned.

Between King Edward St and Valley Rd:

* 47.6 per cent of businesses and

* 68 per cent of food retailers Asian.