The proliferation of non-English signs in Auckland is making some Kiwis uncomfortable, says a Massey University researcher.

Robin Peace and Ian Goodwin studied 500 "linguistic landscape" photographs taken in five Auckland locations - Northcote, Dominion Rd, Meadowlands, Auckland CBD and Papatoetoe - for their study, "The Cosmopolitics of Linguistic Landscapes".

The study said migrant businesses used language and ethnic scripts in areas that had become "ethnic precincts".

The signs reflected a group identity for those people who could read them as belonging to "their" world and allowed non-English speakers to participate in economic and social activities, the report said.


"A New Zealand Kiwi will find themselves in a space that does not make immediate, translatable sense," said Dr Peace, and reactions could involve "annoyance" or "repugnance".

She said ethnic signs would give a sense of relief for new migrants from that language community, but could also make local residents uncomfortable.

"They ... enhance autonomy or the ability of migrant groups to exercise control over public spaces they routinely inhabit by, among other things, mediating the barriers created for non-English or limited English speaking migrants."

Six people from a poll of 10 shoppers on Queen St told the Herald they were unhappy that signs without English were appearing in the city.

Receptionist Jade Morunga, 27, said she felt "like a foreigner in my own land" on streets such as Dominion Rd, where many business signs were in Asian scripts, mainly Chinese.

"I think it's just rude for immigrants to be coming here and turning streets and suburbs into their own little Chinatown."

But Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the signs added to the "unique character" of the city.

"I'm not concerned by an increase of signs in different languages if Auckland business owners think that it is appropriate for their customers and communities, as long as they observe the bylaws," he said. "They contribute to the region's unique character, and I'd like to think the majority of Aucklanders appreciate that."

The Auckland Council said it did not have regulations governing languages used on signs.

Auckland Chinese Community Centre chairman Arthur Loo, a New Zealand-born Chinese who cannot read any language apart from English, said it "would be nice" if businesses operated by migrants did make the effort to translate what they had to say on their signs into English.