Māori feel a strong cultural connection with Asia and eight in 10 have positive feelings about Asians, a new study has found.

But just three in 10 welcomed Asian immigration - with 38 per cent viewing it as negative and 32 per cent neutral.

The report, Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples from a Te Ao Māori Perspective, found Māori felt they had shared cultural views and values with many Asian cultures, regardless of how much they know or have in contact with Asia or Asian people.

Eight in 10 Māori recorded positive feelings towards Asians, and respondents were generally positive about the impact of NZ's ties with Asia - especially in tourism.


Respondents also reported a range of Asia-related interests, including food, travel, sports like sumo, culture and performances.

More than 1400 Māori representing more than 80 iwi were surveyed online by Ihi Research for the Asia New Zealand Foundation report, with 147 surveys completed in te reo Māori. Five focus groups also ran in four locations.

The foundation has been tracking New Zealanders' perceptions of Asia and Asian peoples since 1997.

"In 2018, we decided to commission a survey dedicated to Māori views of Asia because this is such an important aspect of NZ's engagement with Asia, and we wanted to know more," said foundation executive director Simon Draper.

Draper said the study showed Māori had an edge when it came to engagement in Asia, and there was potential for ties to be further strengthened.

The foundation provides a range of programmes in the arts, business, education, media and sports to help Kiwis build their knowledge, skills and confidence to do well in Asia.

The survey also found that Māori had low self-perceived knowledge of Asia and Asian people. Less than 20 per cent said they knew at least a fair amount about Asia.

Draper said the research would be used to start further conversations with Māori around the country and kick off an increased focus on Maori engagement for the foundation.


A sense of shared cultural values were identified by survey participants, most notably valuing elders/kaumātua (83 per cent), performing arts (79 per cent) and food customs (77 per cent).

Six in 10 recognised benefits of New Zealand engaging economically and culturally with Asia, but just 53 per cent felt Māori benefited from these ties.

Only 8 per cent of those surveyed felt enough was being done to equip Māori business to succeed in Asia.

Tania Te Whenua, the foundation's Māori adviser, said Māori were very happy to be engaged in Asia and every indication was that the feeling was mutual.

"Manaakitanga and relationship-building are integral to the way that Māori do business, and this immediately resonates with other cultures - building trust, respect and a degree of connectedness, despite knowing little about each other."