Asia is seen as the most important region, after Australia, to help with New Zealand's post Covid-19 recovery, a new survey has found.

Asia New Zealand Foundation's annual New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples report released this morning found an increase in the number who believed ties with Asia would be increasingly important amid the coronavirus pandemic.

When the main survey was carried out in November last year, just before the Covid-19 outbreak, just 67 per cent of Kiwis said it was important for New Zealand to develop political, economic and social ties with Asia.

Japan is rated as the country in Asia most friendly to NZ. Photo / Supplied
Japan is rated as the country in Asia most friendly to NZ. Photo / Supplied

But by March, a second poll found that figure had grown to 79 per cent, with New Zealanders viewing Asia as the second-most important region to New Zealand.

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The foundation said the report showed recognition of Asia's importance to New Zealand grew after Covid-19 started hitting the headlines.

For the first time since the annual study started in 1997, more than half of New Zealanders felt they had at least a fair amount of knowledge about Asia.

North Korea is the only country seen to present a significant threat to New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
North Korea is the only country seen to present a significant threat to New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

More knew about North Asia (42 per cent) compared with Southeast Asia (30 per cent) and South Asia (22 per cent).

Twice as many viewed North Asia as important or very important to New Zealand's future compared to South Asia.

Asia NZ executive director Simon Draper says it is more critical than ever for New Zealanders to grow their knowledge and understanding of the region.

Food is something that comes to New Zealanders' minds when they see or hear the word
Food is something that comes to New Zealanders' minds when they see or hear the word "Asia". Photo / Supplied

"New Zealand's recovery is tied to Asia's recovery in many respects; economic, social, geographic and through our people," Draper said.

"Border and travel restrictions mean we will need to work harder to stay connected, which our strong people-to-people links will help with."

Draper said despite the confidence and knowledge of Asia growing, it still lagged behind New Zealanders' self-assessed knowledge of the United Kingdom, North America, the South Pacific and Europe.

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One in six surveyed could hold a conversation in an Asian language, while nearly half had travelled or lived in Asia.

According to the survey, New Zealanders also had a wide range of Asia-related interests, including food, language, arts, religion, history, gaming, sport and business.

"The results show that the more personal experience and connections New
Zealanders have of Asia, the more knowledge they tend to have, and the more likely they
are to see Asia as important," Draper said.

When asked in November what word first came to mind when they saw or heard the word "Asia", 27 per cent said China, while others said food, population, Japan and culture.

In March, a small number referred to coronavirus-related words.

Japan was rated as the country most friendly to New Zealand by respondents, and North Korea was seen as the only country to present a significant threat - six in 10 viewed it as a threat or major threat.

The survey of 2002 New Zealanders was taken by Colmar Brunton in November last year. A second survey of 1005 respondents was done in March to explore perceptions of Asia after the Covid-19 outbreak.

This year's study also incorporated a mini-poll carried out in June last year after Christchurch mosques attack.

More than half, or 52 per cent, believed New Zealanders were accepting of cultural and religious diversity and 16 per cent felt they were not.

One third agreed New Zealand was doing enough to understand Asian religions, cultures and traditions, and 28 per cent disagreed.