The text Massey University, Albany public lecture I gave There goes the neighbourhood: New Zealand’s new future in Asia is now online. The abstract is below the line:
New Zealand’s relationship with Asia goes back to the 19th century, with the arrival of sailors and gold-miners from India and China. With them came the establishment of New Zealand’s Asian communities so that, at the 2006 census, twenty percent each of New Zealand’s Indian and Chinese populations were local-born. After major immigration policy changes in New Zealand in the mid-1980s the inflow of Asian migrants to New Zealand diversified and increased exponentially.
From that period to the 2006 census the growth in Asian migrant populations mirrored growth in New Zealand-born Asians, so much so that, according to projections by Statistics New Zealand, by 2026 16 percent of New Zealand’s population will be Asian. If that growth proves accurate, there will be significant public policy challenges, not least with immigration policy itself. Already we see two trends in immigration policy that foreshadow greater challenges: the significant growth in Indian students in New Zealand who use study as a pathway to residence, and similar growth in family reunification migrants, notably parents of current Asian migrants in New Zealand.
Those domestic challenges are significant enough, but they present only half the picture. New Zealand’s place in the Asian region is also facing some significant and historically unique challenges, not least how to address the issues raised by the growing economic and political strength of China. China is New Zealand’s second largest trading partner (after Australia) but it is a country that does not share New Zealand’s democratic ideals, allies or national interests. Alongside an economically weakened United States, which has been largely responsible for a peaceful and stable region in Southeast Asia in the last forty years, there is no guarantee that the next forty years will be as stable as the last forty years. New Zealand’s relative geographical isolation will not protect it from these significant shifts in regional security and power in Asia. Because of New Zealand’s trading or broader political relationships with China and other Asian powers, New Zealand will be drawn into these challenges.
Therefore, New Zealand faces challenges both domestically and internationally. This lecture will identify these challenges in further detail and suggest some questions that the New Zealand public, policy-makers and politicians will need to ask as we approach a new future with the Asia in our neighbourhood and with New Zealand in Asia’s neighbourhood.