Discussion on whether migration will lead to racial backlash or create a vibrant multicultural society.

The Asian population could hit 800,000 in 10 years and more than two-thirds will be living in Auckland, participants at a Chinese conference this weekend will be told.

By the mid-2020s, the Asian working population of people aged between 15 and 65 will number 540,000, which will be larger than Maori and Pasifika, according to projections by Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley.

He will reveal the figures at the Diverse Bananas, Global Dragons conference, which opens tonight and runs until Sunday at the University of Auckland Business School.

"Banana" is a term used to describe Chinese who "are yellow on the outside but are white inside", said conference co-chairman Kai Luey.


Professor Spoonley's session on Sunday will also discuss whether the boom in Asian population will result in a racial backlash or lead to a vibrant multicultural society and an accepted norm.

The professor said Asian migration would remain a key feature in changing the demographics of New Zealand, and especially Auckland.

In the 2013 Census, 23 per cent of Auckland's 1.42 million population identified as Asian, and this is expected to significantly increase over the next decade.

"By the mid-2020s, the Asian population will exceed half a million in Auckland out of a New Zealand Asian population of 800,000," Professor Spoonley said. "The biggest concentration will be in Auckland within the old Auckland City area with almost 200,000."

He said the Chinese community (171,000) was being "caught out in size" by the Indian population (155,000) in the city.

"I expect the Chinese to settle at about a third of all Asians, especially given the growth of the Indian and Filipino communities."

The Asian working population is also projected to be larger than Maori and Pasifika. He said Asians would be a "very significant feature" of the workforce, but could face challenges such as a "bamboo ceiling".

It would also be a challenge to increase Asian participation in politics because more than a third did not vote in the last election


"We still haven't adjusted to the fact that Asians are a significant part of our labour market, and there appears to be some resistance in employing them. I think there's going to be a tipping point, particularly when we get New Zealand-born and raised Asians, who are going to transform politics here in the same way Maori did in the 80s and 90s."