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MIL OSI – Source: Asia New Zealand Foundation – Survey shows complex views about New Zealand’s relationship with Asia

New Zealanders feel more connected with and positive toward people from Asia, but less positive about the economic benefits of New Zealand’s relationship with the region, a new survey has found. 

Respondents in the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s annual survey, New Zealanders’ Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples 2014, reported a higher level of involvement with Asian people and cultures and an increased sense of integration between Asian and non-Asian New Zealanders. 

Contributors to the report commented that Asian people had become more visible in their own lives. They had Asian neighbours, colleagues and healthcare professionals. These personal connections had become more common and everyday, so they felt that Asians were ‘one of them’ in the community. 

The survey also finds high levels of support for language learning in schools, with Chinese viewed as the most valuable foreign language to learn. 

But survey respondents were less positive about the benefits of the New Zealand’s economic relationship with Asia, particularly when it came to investment. The survey found fewer people agreed with a survey statement that investment from Asia would have positive impacts on New Zealand’s economy (from 74 percent in 2013 down to 64 percent in 2014); and more people agreed with a survey statement that New Zealand was allowing too much investment from Asia (up from 36 to 41 percent). 

Although still a minority, an increased number of people agreed with the statement that Asian people were responsible for rising house prices (up from 33 to 39 percent). This view was most likely to be held by Auckland residents (54 percent) but the survey also found greater numbers of Wellington residents shared this view than they did in 2013.  

Asia New Zealand Foundation chairman John Luxton said the Foundation had been tracking New Zealanders’ opinions of Asia and its peoples since 1997. “The latest survey is nuanced and complex. It shows a growing acceptance of Asian people as part of the fabric of New Zealand life, and an increased understanding of the need for our education system to reflect the significance of Asia to New Zealand.  

“The survey also shows some concerns about investment from Asia and the perceived impact of Asian buyers on the housing market, which perhaps isn’t surprising given the prominence of those issues in the media. Overseas investment from non-Asian countries and housing purchases by non-Asian buyers simply do not attract the same level of attention.

“However, the survey also shows that the majority of New Zealanders view the Asian region as important to New Zealand’s future, second only to Australia. In particular, they recognise the importance of exports to Asia and tourism from the region.” 

Dr Andrew Robertson of Colmar Brunton, which carried out the survey for the Asia New Zealand Foundation, said it conveyed a sense that: “New Zealanders differentiate between individuals and corporations. They stand up for the individual and for small businesses. They are a bit more skeptical about companies coming to New Zealand and investing in New Zealand, and what they think that means for New Zealand jobs.”

The survey also found that eight out of 10 New Zealanders (83 percent) thought that school children should learn a language other than English. Chinese was most commonly named as the language school children should learn, but nearly five times as many secondary school students learn French as Chinese. 

Mr Luxton says the Foundation has been working with partners on a range of initiatives to help boost the numbers of school students learning Asian languages. “This doesn’t mean that every New Zealand child should be compelled to learn Chinese but access to Asian languages needs to be equitable. Asian languages shouldn’t – and needn’t – come at the expense of te reo Māori. Children learning te reo will be better placed to pick up other languages.” 

Asia New Zealand Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation dedicated to building New Zealand’s links with Asia through a range of programmes, including business, culture, education, media, research and a leadership network.

About the survey 

New Zealanders’ Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples in 2014 was prepared for the Asia New Zealand Foundation by Colmar Brunton. The results are based on 1,000 telephone interviews carried out between 6 October and 9 November 2014, and a follow-up online forum. The results have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. 

In an accompanying podcast, Asia New Zealand Foundation director of research Dr Andrew Butcher discusses the survey findings with media specialist and Asia New Zealand Foundation trustee Trish Carter; New Zealand Institute of Economic Research principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub; and Victoria University of Wellington’s BNZ Chair in Business in Asia, Professor Siah Hwee Ang. Listen to the podcast