A Dunedin man who terrorised foreign students living with him with violence and racist abuse has been jailed for 17 months.

The victims of 47-year-old David John Rasmussen's rage say they are still worried about him finding them when he gets out of jail.

One of the Asian men who boarded with the defendant called the experience of living with him ''a nightmare''.

Rasmussen and the first victim were in the kitchen on February 13 when the first outburst took place.

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''The defendant took exception to the victim rinsing his mouth in the kitchen sink and punched the victim in the face with a closed fist,'' the police summary said.

Rasmussen followed the man as he walked away and inflicted another six or seven blows.

The victim tried to escape to the toilet but the defendant would not let him go.

As he pursued, he told a witness he was going to get a knife and ''kill this Chinaman''.

He punched him another five times in the torso, causing the man to fall back against the bathroom wall.

Only hours later, the second victim entered the lounge area.

Rasmussen said he would ''finish'' the man and told him he had a firearm and would shoot him.

''The defendant pointed his fingers in the shape of a gun ... and stated this is how we do it Auckland, then said 'pow pow','' court documents said.

Six days later, Rasmussen was similarly antagonistic.

It was 7am and he had been drinking all night, the court heard.

He verbally abused the members of the flat and claimed he would attack them just like he had done earlier.

Rasmussen went into the second victim's bedroom, stood over him and grabbed the collar of his shirt.

''You disrespect me and I will kill you,'' he said.

Defence counsel Jim Takas said despite the drunken abuse, his client's offending had tailed off in recent years.

He told the court Rasmussen wanted to go to polytech to study tourism.

''At the age of 47, that's a rather adventurous undertaking but it's never too late to learn or take advantage of a second chance,'' Takas said.

Judge Kevin Phillips said neither victim had been left with permanent physical injuries but had come away from the episodes mentally scarred.

One said that after a week of living with Rasmussen, he had considered dropping out of his postgraduate study at the University of Otago to return overseas.

''They were scared of you and remain scared of you,'' the judge said.

The defendant, who was convicted of three counts of threatening to kill and two of assault, was assessed as a high risk of reoffending.