More New Zealanders say Asian immigrants not only bring in valuable cultural diversity but also improve workplace productivity, a survey has found.
The survey of 1000 New Zealanders, conducted from late September to October, and released yesterday, found that 82 per cent thought Asian immigrants brought valuable cultural diversity to New Zealand, up from 76 per cent in 2007.
Six in 10 said Asian employees improved workplace productivity, a rise of 10 per cent, said Asia New Zealand Foundation.
The report, 2008 Perceptions of Asia, also found 75 per cent of New Zealanders saw the Asian region as being more important to New Zealand's future than Europe (67 per cent) and North America (55 per cent).
New Zealanders are also mixing more with their Asian neighbours and the survey also found that Kiwis felt warmer towards people from China, India and Japan compared with their Australian counterparts.
The report said contact remained a key factor to beliefs and feelings toward Asian people, and New Zealanders who have "hardly any" contact with Asians felt significantly cooler towards them than those who have had at least some contact.
Almost 6 in 10, or 58 per cent, said they had "a lot" or "a fair amount" of personal involvement with people from Asia, up from 48 per cent last year.
Dr Andrew Butcher, the foundation's research director, said the survey "clearly shows that more New Zealanders are interacting with their Asian neighbours, colleagues and classmates".
However, to most New Zealanders, China comes to mind first when they thought of Asia and 27 per cent of respondents said they felt New Zealanders were "less warm" towards Chinese people than a year ago, with only 22 per cent who thought "more warm".
Their main reasons were the contaminated milk scandal, negative media publicity and a concern that people from China will have too much influence on New Zealand society.
But those who felt warmer said the Beijing Olympics and that Asian people have "progressed" and "changed their way of thinking" as their main reasons.
Economically, a majority also thought New Zealand would benefit from a relationship with Asia, with 91 per cent who said Asia was an important export market and 80 per cent thought the region's economic growth would have a positive impact on New Zealand.
Additionally, 73 per cent thought free-trade agreements with Asian countries would reap benefits and 89 per cent indicating Asian tourism would have a positive impact.
Dr Butcher said the results were encouraging as it showed that New Zealanders appreciated the positive aspects that migrants from Asia brought to New Zealand.