New Asian migration
Concerns about the arrival of Asians surfaced again in the 1990s. Changes to immigration policy in 1986 and 1987 based the selection of immigrants on skills, not country of origin. There was a significant increase in immigration from Asia. The first wave of arrivals in the early 1990s were mainly from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. After 2000 China and India provided many of New Zealand’s migrants. In 2013, nearly 12% of New Zealand's population were Asian.
In 1993 Auckland community newspapers published articles by journalists Pat Booth and Yvonne Martin on the ‘Inv-Asian’. A number of groups formed to oppose Asian immigration, and the New Zealand Party, led by Winston Peters, campaigned in the 1996 election against the current levels of immigration and ‘non-traditional’ immigrants.
There was concern at a range of issues – everything from the driving practices of Asians to the impact of non-English speakers on schools. Much public comment echoed the ‘yellow peril’ concerns of a century earlier.
Racial violence in the 2000s has been very rare. But in 2003, 25-year-old Korean economics student Jae Hyeon Kim was murdered by white supremacists while hitchhiking from Westport to Greymouth. The Reverend Taeil Choi of a Nelson Korean church suggested that for Jae Hyeon Kim’s sake, the country should commit itself to becoming ‘a place where all cultures and all people are tolerated equally’1.
Public opinion became more tolerant in the early 21st century. In an Asia New Zealand Foundation study of 2017, the majority of New Zealanders agreed that Asian growth had a positive influence on New Zealand’s economy, and 46% felt that Asian traditions and cultures would have a positive impact on New Zealand's future. In 2018, 6% of MPs in Parliament were Asian.
When asked whether enough was being done to understand Asian cultures and traditions, 57% of respondents said that not enough was being done and 24% said enough was being done. Involvement with Asian cultures and peoples are major factors in a positive outlook.
By the early 2010s New Zealand had a far more varied ethnic make-up than a century before – in 2013 over 34% of New Zealanders declared their ethnicity as Māori, Asian or Pacific. There was less explicit racial intolerance. The country had an annual Race Relations Day on 21 March – the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and in 2015/16 the Human Rights Commission received 282 complaints or enquiries about discrimination on the basis of race, colour, ethnic or national origin – down from 338 in 2014.
The Human Rights Commission facilitates the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme: Te Ngira. Established in 2004, this programme works to foster positive relationships between diverse peoples and fulfill the promise of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Commission also sponsors the New Zealand Diversity Action Awards directed at rewarding action by a range of groups that contributes to better relationships among New Zealanders of diverse ethnicity and religious beliefs.
The different stories of New Zealanders with diverse ethnic backgrounds were recorded as part of the #ThatsUsNZ initiative in 2016/17. Personal stories of casual racism and of starting a new life in New Zealand highlight informal and casual forms of discrimination. This was reinforced by the subsequent #GiveNothingToRacism campaign.
Immigration and housing
In 2015, as house prices rose steeply in Auckland as a consequence of rising demand and limited supply, issues relating to Chinese purchases of domestic housing became headline news. Labour Party housing spokesperson, Phil Twyford, released data from a real estate firm in July 2015 that suggested that almost 40% of houses in a 3 month period were purchased by people with Chinese names. The implication was that Chinese buyers were driving up the cost of Auckland homes.
The Labour Party were criticised for using questionable information to 'scapegoat' Chinese home buyers in ways that verged on racism. Some commentators argued that the bulk of recent permanent and long-term immigrants were Chinese and Indian and this could explain their representation among house buyers. But these were New Zealand residents or citizens.
From October 2015, foreign buyers had to register with Inland Revenue before buying property in New Zealand and have a New Zealand bank account. Data from Land Information New Zealand in May 2016 suggested that overseas Chinese buyers were the biggest investors among foreign buyers in New Zealand homes in the first quarter of 2016 and 58% of foreign buyers in the Auckland region. However, overseas buyers were only 3% of all home buyers in early 2016.