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NZers see growing benefits from closer economic ties with Asia, wary on investment: survey

New Zealanders see positive spin-offs coming from the nation's growing economic ties across Asia, although they have become wary of investment from the region, which has been blamed for pushing up house prices in Auckland.

About 91 percent of 1,000 people polled expect a positive impact over the next 10 to 20 years from exports to Asia, and from tourists from the region visiting New Zealand, according to the Asia New Zealand Foundation's annual New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples survey.

While 80 percent of respondents see benefits from the pace of growth across Asia and 79 percent are upbeat on free trade agreements between New Zealand and Asian nations, there was a fall in support for foreign investment, with 64 percent seeing positive results compared to 74 percent a year earlier.

"Fewer believed that Investment from Asia will have positive impacts on New Zealand's economy, and more believed that New Zealand was allowing too much investment from Asia ," the report said. "A subsequent detailed sub-group analysis revealed that this less positive view of the benefits of investment from Asia was fairly widespread, and not isolated to any particular location or population sub-group."

New Zealand's share of exports with Asia, and China in particular, has soared as growing middle classes in emerging economies develop an appetite for the country's largely food-based products, and as a series of free trade agreements came on stream, including one with the world's most populous nation.

The emergence of Asia as a potential global powerhouse prompted the creation of Asia New Zealand, then called Asia 2000 Foundation, which seeks to build New Zealand's links across the region.

The survey, conducted by Colmar Brunton, found 84 percent thought it important for New Zealand to forge closer cultural and economic ties with Asia, and respondents were generally warmer to Asia people. Still, responses were mixed on the matter of Asian immigration, with 53 percent seeing benefits from the impacts of new residents from the region.

"The latest survey is nuanced and complex," chairman John Luxton said. "It shows a growing acceptance of Asian people as part of the fabric of New Zealand life, and an increased understanding of the need for our education system to reflect the significance of Asia to New Zealand."

Some 84 percent of respondents though school children should learn a language other than English, with Chinese the most commonly named, which people largely said would help strengthen cultural and economic ties with Asia.

(Paul McBeth is on an exchange at the Shanghai Daily News, with support from Asia NZ)