Growing NZ in Southeast Asia – the relationships are already in place

Media Release, Tuesday 15 December 2009

New Zealanders living and working in Southeast Asia and conversely, Southeast Asian communities here in New Zealand represent a growing impetus for closer links with Southeast Asia, says a new Asia New Zealand Foundation report.

The report says given the importance of the emerging Free Trade Agreement involving New Zealand and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), along with China and Australia, these diasporas are set to become important players in this transnational future.

The report by Christchurch geographer Robert Didham – Intersections: Southeast Asia and diaspora engagement – highlights the connections between the diasporas and examines ways in which they engage with each other and with their respective host societies.

According to the 2006 Census, there were 44,000 people of Southeast Asian ethnicities living in New Zealand but that number swells to 60,000 if people born in South East Asia of Indian and Chinese ethnicities are included.

Contrastingly a rough estimate of New Zealanders in Southeast Asia is possibly 8,000 to 12,000.

The report says while the numbers of New Zealanders in Southeast Asian countries is proportionally much smaller than the Southeast Asian diaspora here, a sum of the two diasporas does present enormous advantages in policy efforts to build strong sustained links with Southeast Asia.

“Paramount among the outcomes of these connections is the creation of a pool of resources with expertise in cross-cultural commerce out of which global networks can develop.”

The report also highlights New Zealanders in Southeast Asia who have enjoyed success in a number of sectors including tourism and public relations. They include:

  • Former RNZ journalist Bronwen Evans who has been working in public relations since 1999 and is owner and director of the Faasai Resort and Spa and is President of the Bangkok Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
  • New Zealand public relations firm Baldwin Boyle Group headed by Greg Shand which established an office in Bangkok in 1997, following a long history in Singapore.
  • Alastair Carthew, formerly of Air New Zealand and TVNZ, who now lives in Phuket and runs his own public relations company, AC Public Relations Counsel.

Integral to the deepening connections to Southeast Asia are the communities that are well established here, particularly where people are part of active transnational networks.

“One of the key cross-cutting resources that these connections open up is access to the language skills of migrants and their families.”

The report says “the New Zealand-born and their families, the returned migrants who have once lived in New Zealand and international students who have studied in New Zealand” all play a role in establishing and maintaining links across Southeast Asian society and between the region and New Zealand.

It concludes that the activities and support of key agencies such as, in the case of New Zealand, MFAT and NZTE, are vital to the successful development of connections between local commerce and export industries.

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Dr Andrew Butcher
Director, Policy and Research

Last updated: 1 Apr 2014