A New Zealand immigrant has dismissed claims the country is highly racist, saying most Kiwis actually welcome and embrace diversity.

Esther Yao, 25 of East Auckland spoke to the Herald after a series of stories which explored racial attacks on foreigners.

The series spoke of how a Henderson resident was told "to go back to China" when she asked two women to stop feeding birds at a popular Auckland park.
A Kiwi with Indian heritage was also left shaken after being yelled at to "go back to his country" while in a West Auckland school carpark.

Yao, born in Hong Kong but raised in Auckland, said while she sincerely appreciated the issue of racism being brought to light, the racist behaviours of certain individuals don't reflect New Zealand society as a whole.


"I have experienced racism in more covert forms, from being told to 'go back to where you belong to', more commonly, having my status as an 'outsider' emphasised, for example through seemingly innocent questions such as 'Where are you from?... No, where were you originally from?'," she said.

"To me however, this is generally not representative of the day-to-day experience I have had in New Zealand and I am saddened to see that the racist behaviours of certain individuals have been arguably portrayed to be reflective of New Zealand society as a whole.

"I feel that this is extremely unfair to the majority of people who have made me feel welcome and accepted me into this country, may it be at school, in the workplace, or out in the community."

Yao moved to New Zealand when she was a 7 and said racism has been on the rise in the 18 years she has lived here.

"I by no means intend to minimise the very real experiences of racism shared... this is an extremely important issue to address," she said.

"However, I would like to reiterate that this is generally not representative of my everyday life experience in New Zealand, nor that of many others I have talked to.

"I worry that the focus on the negative experiences of cultural encounters, may result in us 'outsiders' interpreting that New Zealand is a racist country and fundamentally does not welcome us here, thus further fuelling feelings of marginalisation.

"I feel that positive experiences need to be told, so that we can be assured that if or when we encounter racism, that this is not necessarily reflective of the view held by every New Zealander.

"I think back to the many strangers who smile and nod 'hi' to me during my runs; to the random act of kindness from an elderly lady in the parking lot the other day; to the people in school, the workplace, and in the community that have respected me and my opinions, and moreover have welcomed and embraced diversity; to everyone who knows me and calls this country my 'home' even though I still don't give full permission for myself to do so.

"I feel that for the majority of us, this is the other side of our living stories."

The Herald also received a message from a 51-year-old Chinese woman, who was "born and bred" in Taranaki, and said she had never encountered racism.

Earlier this year Boy director Taika Waititi labelled New Zealand "racist as f***".

"I think New Zealand is the best place on the planet, but it's a racist place. People just flat-out refuse to pronounce Maori names properly.

"There's still profiling when it comes to Polynesians. It's not even a colour thing – like, 'Oh, there's a black person.' It's, 'If you're Poly then you're getting profiled'."

Waititi also fronted an anti-racism campaign for Human Rights Commission.