Capital city with long standing links to Asia – report

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The election of six Asian MPs in Parliament is one of the watershed moments in the evolution of our society from a colonial one to a contemporary pluralistic one, says Asia New Zealand Foundation chairman, the Hon Philip Burdon.

“The Asian communities have evolved from communities of historically ethnically defensive enclaves, excluded and discriminated against, into integrated and fully engaged participants in all aspects of New Zealand society,”  Mr Burdon said.

“Only 13 years ago there were no Asian MPs in Parliament but after the election in November, we now have six, from four different countries, including our first cabinet minister of Asian descent. This is clearly demonstrative of how much the country has changed over the past twenty five years”.

He says together with Maori, Pakeha and Pacific MPs, the increasing diverse nature of Parliament is a source of this country’s democratic strength, something that bodes well for the future.

Mr Burdon, a co-founder of the Asia New Zealand Foundation or the Asia 2000 Foundation as it was known and currently chairman, will today launch the Foundation’s latest Outlook research report into the growth and impact of Asian communities in New Zealand.

The report Asians in Wellington: Changing the Ethnic Profile of the Capital City is the fifth and final report in a series. Earlier publications looked at Asian populations in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, and New Zealand as a whole.

In this final Outlook report on New Zealand’s Asian populations, Auckland University geographer Dr Wardlow Friesen looks at the Asian population of New Zealand’s capital city.

After Auckland, Wellington with nearly 37,000 Asian people has the second-largest number of Asians in New Zealand, a result of its long-term and unique history of involvement with Asia.

Wellington is home to Asia’s diplomatic posts as well as the headquarters of many national ethnic associations. Asian students also have a significant presence which dates back to 1951 when students from South and Southeast Asian countries began studying here under the Colombo Plan.

Asian settlement in Wellington was evident in the 19th century when a small Chinatown was established while Indians settlement was more sporadic and gradual.

While there are increasingly more recent Chinese and Indians migrants in Wellington, the city is remarkable because it has a substantially higher proportion of New Zealand-born Chinese and Indian than Auckland, Christchurch or Dunedin, a reflection of Wellington’s long-term links with Asia.

Another notable feature of Asian settlement in Wellington is to be found in its other Asian communities where a recent diversification of migrant sources indicates the ongoing importance of Southeast Asian countries, especially the Philippines.

Related reports include:

The Asia New Zealand Foundation was founded in 1994 as a non-profit, apolitical organization dedicated to building New Zealand’s links with Asia.

Through its activities in education, business, media, culture, research and policy, the Asia New Zealand Foundation aims to promote initiatives which deepen understanding and relationships between New Zealanders and the peoples of Asia.


Dr Andrew Butcher
Director Policy and Research
021 914 321

Last updated: 1 Apr 2014