High awareness of Asia’s importance, despite economic concerns
Most New Zealanders recognise the economic and cultural benefits of maintaining ties with Asia, research from the Asia New Zealand Foundation has found.
More than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents in the Foundation’s annual tracking study – New Zealanders’ perceptions of Asia and Asian peoples in 2012 (PDF - 2MB) – agreed Asia was important to New Zealand’s future.
That was six percentage points down on the 2011 survey, but New Zealanders still saw Asia as second only to Australia in importance to New Zealand. Perceptions of the importance of all other regions to New Zealand also declined in 2012.
Fieldwork for the survey was carried out in September 2012, when unemployment had reached 7.3 percent – its highest level in 13 years.
Asia New Zealand Foundation’s executive director John McKinnon said the latest results suggested that as economic optimism decreased in 2011, New Zealanders might have shifted their focus inward.
“Nevertheless, these results continue to show high levels of positive feelings about New Zealand’s relationship with Asia, and high levels of warmth towards people from Asia.
“The general trend shows that awareness of Asia amongst New Zealanders has increased over time, with some annual fluctuations that are driven by national and international events.”
The economic benefits of a relationship with Asia remained top of mind for those surveyed. Strong majorities believed exports to Asia (92 percent), Asia’s economic growth (80 percent) and free trade agreements with Asian countries (79 percent) would have positive impacts for New Zealand in the next 10 to 20 years.
But in a panel discussion about the survey results, business journalist Rod Oram suggested that while New Zealanders might recognise the benefit of economic connections, they could not be complacent.
“There was a question about are businesses doing enough to link between New Zealand and Asia. Fifty-two percent said, yes, New Zealand businesses were doing enough. Well I think objective analysis would suggest that not enough is being done by enough companies fast enough.”
New Zealand Herald columnist Fran O’Sullivan, who also took part in the panel discussion, agreed. “I think it is very hard for our companies – they do need more help. I think there’s a vacuum in the market perhaps for some sort of state trading company that might assist some of our smaller companies in some of these fast-growth regions.”
Most survey respondents (70 percent) saw Asian companies’ investment in New Zealand as good for New Zealand’s economy.
However, this figure was down from 74 percent in 2011. Comparisons with surveys carried out in Canada and Australia in 2012 did suggest that New Zealanders were more welcoming than those countries of investment from Asia.
Given China’s prominence on the global stage, both Oram and O’Sullivan found it unsurprising that it was the first country New Zealanders though of when asked to consider Asia (60 percent). However, both commentators said the time had come to look beyond China.
“When we look at the diversity of Asian immigrants in New Zealand, there are of course many more people than just Chinese. And I really hope we can build on that diversity of Asian immigration to be able to, in time, build some stronger relationships with other countries,” said Oram.
This was important too for New Zealand’s economic future, said O’Sullivan.
“When you look at countries which are growing very, very fast – like Indonesia for instance and also Vietnam – what they have that China doesn’t have is a very young population and these are the markets of the future.
“But we’re only just starting to make our inroads there economically and from a business perspective."
Other findings from the 2012 survey
- Most New Zealanders (79 percent) were positive about what Asian people contributed to the economy, and 74 percent believed Asian people brought valuable cultural diversity to New Zealand.
- 17 percent of New Zealanders said they saw New Zealand as “part of Asia”, down from 22 percent in 2011.
- 57 percent believed more needed to be done to help young people engage confidently with Asia, and 58 percent believed more needed to be done to help New Zealanders better understand Asian cultures and traditions.
- New Zealanders main contact with people from Asia was “shopping, shops or services” - 89 percent had “a lot” or “some” contact that way. The next most common contact point was through friends.
- Just over half of those surveyed (51 percent) saw Asian immigration to New Zealand as positive.
About the survey
The New Zealanders’ Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples survey was prepared for the Asia New Zealand Foundation by Colmar Brunton. The results are based on 1,000 phone interviews carried out in September/October 2012, along with a follow-up online forum.
- New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples in 2012 (released March 2013) - PDF 2MB
- Panel discussion with Fran O'Sullivan and Rod Oram about the survey results (MP3 - 6.1MB)
Past years' surveys
- 2011: New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples in 2011 (released April 2012) - (PDF - 1.3MB) Also a panel discussion about the survey results
- 2010: New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples 2010 - PDF
- 2009: Perceptions of Asia 2009 (PDF)
- 2009: The impact of the Beijing Olympics on New Zealanders' perceptions of Asia (2009)
- 2008: New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia (PDF)
- 2007: Perceptions of Asia (PDF)
Contact Dr Andrew Butcher at email@example.com
Telephone: + 64 4 471 2320