Foundation board trustees
comment on the survey findings

Read comments and reactions from the Asia New Zealand Foundation's Board of Trustees about the Perceptions of Asia and Asian peoples research report.

Hon Steve Maharey, Asia New Zealand Foundation Deputy Chairman; Vice-Chancellor, Massey University

“What we have to have is a much more knowledgeable, well-rounded view of Asia and of Asians in New Zealand … than we are currently getting.”  

He says New Zealand needs to be fully engaged with the region: “Not just saying that oh well, we get to sell our lamb there and we see busloads of tourists turning up and that’s quite positive.  That’s pretty superficial when you think about it. It’s one of the points the Chinese make … they’re a full culture and one of the world’s oldest cultures and an incredibly proud nation. If we’re going to be within the Asian sphere, then treating them as just a trade destination, and ‘It’s really good they send tourists here’, is not full engagement.”  

Professor Manying Ip, Asia New Zealand Foundation trustee; Emeritus Professor, University of Auckland

“The report looks at the broad trend of how New Zealanders see Asia. This is important because if New Zealanders want to succeed in Asia – and people feel that we should engage with Asia and should have opportunities in Asia – we need to understand Asia but also, more importantly, how we feel about Asia.  

“Two-thirds of New Zealanders say they know little or nothing about Asia. To realise that we know little or nothing about Asia is the beginning of seeking more knowledge. To know the deficiency is important. If we know where there is a gap, we can identify the gap and try to do something about it.”  

Rob Fyfe, Asia New Zealand Foundation trustee; Chief Executive Officer, Icebreaker 

Mr Fyfe says New Zealanders need to translate their knowledge of how important Asia is into an inquisitiveness to learn more about countries and cultures.  “We’ve been fed a big diet of free trade agreements and the benefits of trade. The statistics we see are typically about trade and tourism. They are very quantitative - a lot of the data we read about in the media and so on.  It’s interesting if you flip that on its head. When I find myself in Asia, which I do a lot – I’ve been in Singapore, China, Bangladesh, Hong Kong so far this year – when you talk to people in the street in those countries about New Zealand, they don’t talk in those terms at all. They talk with wonder about the people, or, if you’re in Bangladesh, they want to talk about the cricket. The last time I was in China I was amazed by the number of people who could talk about Queenstown. 

“At the other end of the relationship, they’re fascinated by our culture, our country, our scenery and so on. I think our Asian partners and friends see the relationship quite differently from their end than how we see it from this end.”  

Peter Chin, Asia New Zealand Foundation trustee

Mr Chin says Dunedin, which has a smaller Asian population than some other New Zealand cities, is working to build relationships with the region.  “Right at the present time we have iD Fashion Week in Dunedin. It’s an annual event and over the last two or three years we are using our sister city of Shanghai. There are Shanghai models who are very much part of the week now.   

"We also have the Chinese New Year festivities, which in Dunedin is a bit different from other places, where, say in Wellington or Auckland, you have a big Chinese New Year… In Dunedin, because of the smaller population – in the gathering we have here, it’s a multicultural thing, we have Indian, we have Japanese. We take advantage of these things in a different way. That creates an awareness through community.”  

Simon Watt, Asia New Zealand Foundation trustee; partner, Bell Gully

“From a business perspective, I think there is a real hunger for a better cultural understanding. By coincidence, at our work, we’re running training on Chinese cultural competency, which was extended to all of the partners. In the group I work most closely with, there was 100 percent uptake within about five minutes.”  

Mr Watt says he is encouraged by the survey’s findings of an increased sense of interconnectedness with Asian people. “The increased exposure that one naturally has when the population grows will have made a difference. We have had a lot of time to see Asian people settling into New Zealand. When you reflect on it, that has gone smoothly. You rarely read stories that suggest a problem integrating, but you increasingly see participation in society and new things around you that they contribute. They have enriched and become part of the fabric of what we see around us and no doubt that’s contributed to that sentiment.”