Growing number of Asians migrating to NZ

Growing number of Asians migrating to NZ
Eddie Saw who opened a downtown printing and courier shop in Wellington, migrated to New Zealand from Malaysia with his family to seek a less frenetic pace of life.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Behind the counter of his newly fitted printing shop in the New Zealand city of Wellington, Mr Eddie Saw gives a cheeky smile as he attempts to explain the reason for emigrating last year from Malaysia.

Moving to his desktop computer, he points to a website which shows that Wellington was recently rated the 13th most romantic city in the world.

"Not bad," he says. "That was a good reason to move here. There weren't any Asian cities on the list (of 25)."

Mr Saw, 48, admits that romance was not the primary motivation for moving from George Town in Penang in January 2013 with his wife Karen Tan, 44, who works in a Chinese restaurant, and two sons, aged 10 and 14.

The main reason, he says, was that he and his wife were seeking a less frenetic pace of life.

"I like it here - it's a good lifestyle," he told The Straits Times. "I think maybe Malaysia is good for a holiday or for retirement. It is cheap there, but it is hectic and can be a rat race."

Mr Saw, who migrated on a business visa and opened a downtown printing and courier shop a year ago, is one of a rapidly growing number of Asians who have chosen to call New Zealand home.

The nation of 4.5 million people has experienced an Asian boom, with the country's growing economy and strong job market leading to a mass influx in recent years.

The NZ$40 billion (S$40.1 billion) rebuilding of the city of Christchurch, heavily damaged by a 2011 earthquake, has added to the demand for skilled workers, particularly in construction and engineering. Other in-demand areas include the health, tourism, agriculture and oil & gas sectors.

Since 2001, Asian-born citizens have leapt from 7 per cent of the population to 12 per cent, or about half a million people.

Within the decade, Asians are expected to overtake the 600,000-strong Maoris as the nation's main ethnic minority.

The Asian influx has led to occasional racial tensions and calls for immigration curbs, but for the most part there has been acceptance of the country's changing face over the past decade.

But a survey released in March by the Asia New Zealand Foundation found there was growing resentment among Maoris. While 27 per cent of New Zealanders believed attitudes towards Asians had cooled in the past year, 44 per cent of Maoris did so.

An expert on race relations, Professor Paul Spoonley from Massey University, said the Maoris are worried about losing jobs and the threat to their status in New Zealand society.

In the past 40 years, the government has moved towards a "bicultural" society that promotes Maori language, heritage and culture.

"By 2000, the country had an extensive (albeit incomplete) bicultural policy framework," he wrote in The Conversation website earlier this year.

In the lead-up to the general election last month, the opposition parties largely backed curbs on immigration.

But the plans were slammed by Prime Minister John Key, whose National party easily won a third term.

"We don't put up the fear factor you see from other political parties about the multicultural society that is emerging in New Zealand," he said in a speech in May.

"We welcome tourists (and) people who are going to come and study at our schools and universities; we welcome people who want to invest (and) we welcome people who want to make their home in New Zealand."

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