Conservative NZ party wants Asian immigration curbed
Updated Thu Apr 3, 2008 10:38pm AEST
Latest government figures indicate New Zealand's Asian community may outnumber indigenous Maoris by 2026. [ABC]
Immigration is hotting-up as an election issue in New Zealand in the wake of the government's publication of the latest population figures.
They show that New Zealand's Asian population is growing faster than any other ethnic group, and could reach nearly 800,000 by 2026, outnumbering indigenous Maoris.
The conservative New Zealand First Party has now said that many Asians are failing to integrate into New Zealand society, and that immigration should be curbed.
The party's critics warn that its leader's comments could jeopardise a free trade agreement under discussion between New Zealand and China.
Radio Australia's Pacific Beat reporter Barbara Heggen reports that the anti-Asian sentiment expressed by the New Zealand First Party has captured the attention of news organisations around the world.
Party member Peter Brown has called for a national conference to discuss community concerns about immigration.
“We've got to be able to ensure that 390,000 people or thereabouts coming into this country integrate into our society, and I simply say that if we aren't able to do that then we will end up with mini-societies, mini-communities in New Zealand, living as if they were living somewhere else in Asia,” he said.
“Where I've seen that occur, in many places in the Western world, that is to the detriment of those countries and it will be to the detriment of [New Zealand].”
Mr Brown denies that that his views are racist.
“I'm not anti-Asian, I'm simply saying that if people come in from different cultures, they need to integrate, to become Kiwis if you like,” he said.
Mr Brown says the New Zealand government has failed to provide the necessary support for immigrants, and says this will further encourage ethnic ghettos.
He says his party will continue to raise these views in the lead-up to New Zealand's next elections, which are expected to be held by late November.
Asians welcome: survey
Asia New Zealand Foundation research director, Dr Andrew Butcher, rejects Mr Brown's claims that concerns about Asian integration are widespread.
“Asia New Zealand did a survey last year and the vast majority of New Zealanders feel warm towards the Asian community here,” Dr Butcher said.
“I would hope that international readers and observers would recognise that the views that have been expressed in the past few days are not the views of the vast majority of New Zealanders, and most New Zealanders see the country's changing demography in very positive ways, and research proves this.”
The Auckland Chamber of Commerce has also weighed in to the debate, with chief executive Michael Barnett warning that Mr Brown's comments could ruin New Zealand's reputation abroad.
“I think it's hugely damaging from a New Zealand perspective, because we're dependent on skills coming into New Zealand to assist growth and assist with the shortage of skills that we've got here at the moment,” he said.
“We're dependent on finance coming in from offshore to be invested in our companies and the international relationships we have, this really makes us look like a pack of rednecks.”
Mr Barnett says past comments by senior New Zealand officials who disparaged China led to a downturn in the number of foreign students enrolling in English language schools in New Zealand.
“It gutted the income, and it gutted the visitors we were getting from China, the business and relationship we had with China,” he said.
“I think this falls into a similar category; we are in the process of signing a free trade agreement with China, and what sort of message are these people going to get from the political posturing coming out of this party?
“To my mind, it's shameful.”
Also Of Interest:
New population figures spark debate in NZ
3 Apr 2008 – 2 days ago
Malaysian, Indonesian nationals detained in immigration raids
14 Mar 2008 – 3 weeks ago