NZ Chinese businesses a vital link in trade

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Chinese businesses in Auckland are an important aspect of the city’s retail landscape. They are neither a minor nor an exotic feature of the urban economy of New Zealand’s largest city and they form an important trade link with Asia.

In a timely new report by the Asia New Zealand Foundation entitled Chinese Businesses and the Transformation of Auckland, two researchers Prof Paul Spoonley and Dr Carina Meares look at the ways that different Chinese communities have responded to the opportunities and challenges of setting up businesses in Auckland.

They find that the city’s Chinese businesses are an important source of innovation and contribute to the city’s cultural and economic diversity. And they are important contributors to international trade.

The Chinese Businesses and the Transformation of Auckland report shows that many Chinese business owners depend extensively on other Chinese for employees, suppliers and customers. This is related to a lack of local networks, including business networks, and English language difficulties.

But local Chinese businesses have also adapted to the influx of Chinese immigrants. Overseas Chinese contacts are considered important for business owners, many of whom make regular personal visits to maintain their relationships with overseas business contacts, especially in China.

Even though the customers might be here in New Zealand, these business owners are very reliant on these international connections for supplies or ideas. They differ from many other New Zealand businesses in this regard.

One characteristic feature is the development of ethnic precincts, or the concentrations of small and medium-sized Chinese businesses in some parts of Auckland such as Dominion Road in Auckland City, Northcote in North Shore City and Meadowlands in Manukau City.

The Chinese Business and the Transformation of Auckland report shows why Chinese businesses deserve more attention in the Auckland city economy but concludes that some key developments and organisations have yet to recognise this.

For example Chinese business owners often expressed frustration in dealing with some host institutions such as local banks and the report says that it appears that many local institutions have yet to realise the importance of Chinese business development.

“The Royal Commission’s report on the governance of Auckland and the government’s response both acknowledge the cultural diversity of the city but do not explore what this means for the contribution of such businesses to Auckland’s productivity, innovation or future growth in general,” the report says.

We hope that this report will contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of the importance of Chinese businesses to the Auckland economy in the 21st century.

The Chinese Businesses and the Transformation of Auckland full report is available here.

Prof Paul Spoonley discusses the research on TV3's Sunrise programme, 20 July 2009

About the authors:

Prof Spoonley is Regional Director (Auckland) and Research Director for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University. He is the leader of the Integration of Immigrants Programme (2007-2012), which is funded by the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. He is also Chair of the Asia Pacific Migration Research Network, a UNESCO funded network of researchers.

Dr Carina Meares is the Research Manager for the Integration of Immigrants Programme. Based at Massey University’s Albany campus, she is responsible for the overall co-ordination of the programme’s varied research activities.

Last updated: 29 Jan 2013