23 Mar 2016

Asians still blamed for high house prices

9:43 am on 23 March 2016

Attitudes towards Asian people are improving - but many still blame them for pushing up house prices, a new survey shows.

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Chinese New Year celebrations in Wellington Photo: RNZ / Lynda Chanwai-Earle

The Asia New Zealand Foundation has been tracking people's perception of Asians for 18 years.

Its latest survey, of 1001 people, shows 82 percent believe it is important to develop closer ties with the region and its people, yet 63 percent know little or nothing at all about its culture.

Those who believed Asians mixed well with communities had gone up 40 percent in five years, while 51 percent of New Zealanders had some sort of involvement with Asian people and culture, up from 30 percent in 1998.

Foundation executive director Simon Draper said it was important for people to learn more about Asian culture.

"Most of that comes down to either travel or people having Asian neighbours, work colleagues, friends and mixing with them that way," he said.

"I think a really important part of the survey is that the more people mix with Asian people, the more confident and positive they feel about them."

'Asian Century' ahead

Massey University's Professor Paul Spoonley, who is an expert on race relations, said schools needed to better prepare children for what he described as the "Asian Century" - a period of economic reliance on the region.

"The thing that concerns me most is that we need to encourage primary and secondary school children to learn about Asian languages and Asian culture," he said.

Dr Xiaoying Fu, a business consultant in Auckland, said she had seen massive improvement in integration in the 20 years she had lived here.

"The people are very open now - they are young and educated in the country and communication is very important," she said.

"I can see substantial improvement and younger people and new migrants having travelled a lot, seen the world, and no longer see New Zealand as a strange country."

A negative revealed in the survey was that 37 percent of people believed Asian investment was an issue and Asian people were driving house prices up.

Prof Spoonley said that was a myth.

"There are some historical reasons that we see people who look very different and sound very different from us as being a threat," he said.

"If you look at the evidence, in terms of investment in New Zealand, Asian investment is quite a small part compared to that of Australia or the US or the UK."

He said both politicians and the media have to take some of the blame for that perception.